O'FALLON — Thanks in part to another superb effort from its most experienced player, the O'Fallon boys volleyball team finds itself one victory away from the state tournament.
Senior setter/right side hitter Luke Terhaar had eight kills and 17 assists as the Panthers beat Edwardsville 25-14, 25-22 Friday in a sectional semifinal at O'Fallon's Milburn campus.
The Panthers (25-2-2) will face Minooka at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the title match at O'Fallon's Smiley campus. Minooka advanced with a 25-13, 25-15 win over Plainfield East on Friday at the Joliet West Sectional.
"Everyone else on the team looks up to him because he's my only senior," O'Fallon coach Katelyn Hagarty said of Terhaar. "He's experienced the regional and the sectional before. Whenever they saw him start getting into his groove, that helped get the guys pumped and get them to come together."
Whether he's setting up teammates or blasting the ball past opponents, Terhaar has been tough to stop all season.
"I like to be able to use all of my talents and being a left-handed setter gives me an advantage at the net," Terhaar said. "My coaches said 'they haven't stopped you yet, so go ahead and swing away.'"
Edwardsville (16-11) lost for the fourth time this season to Southwestern Conference rival O'Fallon.
"They made some errors (in the second game) and we took advantage of them, but that's a good team over there," Tigers coach Andy Bersett said. "We didn't play our best ball, but it's not a coincidence that we're not on when we play them."
A kill by Terhaar capped a 5-0 O'Fallon run and gave the Panthers a 14-8 lead in game one, A kill by John Hartkop made the score 16-9.
O'Fallon continued to dominate at the net, going up 24-13 on a kill by John Hobbs. Edwardsville stayed alive on a kill by Will Frank, but the Panthers closed out the game on a tip down the left side by Alex Belongy.
"One of our biggest strengths against some of these teams is that we match up well against them," Terhaar said. "To be able to spread the ball out (to different hitters) is a big thing and we definitely take advantage of our weapons."
Edwardsville looked sharper in game two, taking an 11-9 lead on a block by Nathan Woolverton. The Tigers appeared to have the momentum when a kill by Brandon Davis made the score 20-17.
But a substitution error by Edwardsville tied the score at 22-22 and the Tigers didn't score another point.
"As coaches, we need to be on that better, so that's kind of my bad," Bersett said. "You're in the middle of the game and you're trying to figure out what they're going to do next. It's unfortunate because it happened at a bad time, but our guys left everything they had on the floor, which is all we can ask."
A block and a kill by Hartkop put O'Fallon ahead 24-22, and the Panthers won the game and the match when Edwardsville's Jordin Ray hit the ball into the net.
Frank and Woolverton had seven and six kills, respectively, for Edwardsville.