Freshman outside hitter Alexa Harris helped Edwardsville get off to a quick start in Game 2, and the Tigers never trailed again as they rallied past O’Fallon 20-25, 25-10, 25-17 in a semifinal match Monday at the Class 4A Chatham Glenwood Sectional.
Looking for a measure of revenge after falling to Edwardsville in the sectional a year ago, O’Fallon (30-7) took Game 1 behind the strong front line play of junior Kenzee Simmers and senior outside hitter Elise Smith.
Smith had seven of her 11 kills in the first game, which ended when Simmers rifled a kill down the middle of the court.
But Harris, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter, and the rest of the Tigers quickly took control in the second game. Consecutive points by Harris and a kill by Rachel Pranger gave Edwardsville a 4-2 lead.
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Pranger, with Harris contributing a block and kill, then went on an eight-point service run to give the Tigers a 12-2 lead and total control of the second game
“We just needed to get fired up and start playing our game,” Tigers sophomore Maria Smith said. “We just needed to get a little momentum, and after the first game, we did that.”
After finishing off the Panthers in Game 2, Smith opened the decisive third game with a service winner and, along with senior Megan Woll and Rachel Verdun, served two winning points each as Edwardsville jumped out to an 8-3 lead.
O’Fallon closed to within one point late but could never get even as Edwardsville pulled away and into the title match Wednesday at Chatham Glenwood High School.
The Tigers (32-5) will take on the Pekin Dragons in the title match at 6 p.m. Pekin defeated Normal in the other semifinal Monday.
The Tigers, led by seniors Pranger and Kate Martin, used a balanced scoring attack to take command after the opening game.
“It was just a matter of executing and doing what we know we can do. It’s not unusual for us to have several players with four of five kills each,” Tigers coach Jami Parker said.
O’Fallon coach Melissa Massey said she didn’t know what happened to her team after it took the early lead in the match, which was played before a large crowd at Belleville West.
“I really have no answer as to what happened. I thought we came out and played very well in the first game. But after the first game, we made a lot of errors, and a lot of those were unforced errors. You can’t do that against a quality team like Edwardsville,” Massey said. “I think they got into our heads a little bit.”
Nevertheless, the Panthers rallied to make it close in the third game. Chipping away at the Tigers lead, O’Fallon closed to win 17-16 on a kill by junior outside hitter Katherine Toftemark. But a tip by Martin after a lengthy rally increased the Tigers’ lead to 18-16.
Martin then served the final five points to move the Tigers into the sectional title match.