CRAB ORCHARD — Crab Orchard swept Cobden and New Athens swept Galatia on Tuesday night to advance to the title game of the Crab Orchard Class 1A volleyball sectional.
"We became the first volleyball team to play for in a sectional final and we get to do it at home," said Crab Orchard coach Jonathan Watts. "We also set a couple more marks tonight. We hit a new record with 27 wins and this is the first team to play 31 games."
Crab Orchard (27-4) beat the Appleknockers, 25-16, 25-18, while New Athens (26-9) beat the Lady Cats, 25-12, 25-12. The title game is at 7 p.m. Thursday. Both teams are coming off their first regional titles.
The Trojans were led by the middle of their frontline. Senior Kelly Johns and junior Johanna Mandrell combined for 17 kills. Johns led the match with nine kills and Mandrell finished with eight.
"We relied on our defense and serving and our middles carried us offensively," Watts said. "We call them the Beasts of the East."
Crab Orchard took the early lead in both sets, only letting the Appleknockers tie the score twice in the first set and never letting them get closer than a point in the second.
"We are huge in the middle, so our passes goes through (us)," Mandrell said. "We're really strong because we've been starting together for three years."
The Trojans were equally devastating behind the service line, serving up 10 aces with Johns and senior Mollee Whitehead laying down three each. In the first set, Destiny Barnett served up three straight points, including an ace to give the Trojans set point.
In the second, leading 18-13, Johns served up five straight points, including two aces to set up Mandrell's kill for match point and Brooke Arnold's kill for the win.
"One thing that's been really strong for us this year is our serving, and at times it was spectacular tonight," Watts said.
Cobden (16-18) was making its second consecutive trip to the sectionals and was led by Sandra Hartline with seven kills.
"They are a good team," said Cobden coach Nathan Emrick. "Minus a couple serving errors we had in the second game, I thought this was one of the better games we played. We didn't have a whole lot of hitting errors which has been an issue for us, and I thought we scrambled really well. We just ran into a better team."