There’s an old sports adage that talks about the difficulties of beating a common opponent three times in any given season.
But nowhere does it speak of a fifth meeting.
“They always say that you don’t want to play a good team three times, well by the fifth time they know everything about you,” said Columbia coach Kelly Landgraf, whose team got past a determined Freeburg club 25-23, 25-22 to win the Class 3A Centralia Regional on Thursday night.
“They knew our strengths and weaknesses and just mentally it’s hard to play a team five times,” Landgraf added. “Every single time we play them it keeps getting closer and closer. Hats off to them they did a great job of being prepared for us.”
First-year Freeburg coach Brooke Kloess, whose team ended with a record of 20-11, echoed Landgraf’s sentiments.
“It’s a mental thing, and I know it can’t be easy for Columbia either,” she said. “We had to get the girls motivated since we lost to them four times and we kept telling them those other games didn’t matter.
“You almost have to be perfect against a team like Columbia and if just a few more things go our way it’s a different outcome,” continued Kloess. “Unfortunately they didn’t.”
The teams battled to 17 ties in game one. A kill by Miranda Schulte put Freeburg ahead 23-22, but the Eagles’ Colene Hamilton pounded her seventh kill of the match to even the score.
The Midgets were then called for being in the net and followed with hitting the ball out to give game one to Columbia.
Freeburg jumped out to a 6-1 lead in game two behind the solid serving of libero Emily Schaller and held a 13-10 advantage following a block by Jenny Homann.
But the Eagles rallied to tie the game at 14-all and then held a 22-21 lead late. Back-to-back kills by Jordan Hausmann put Columbia at game point, as the junior middle hitter used a well-placed tip give her team the regional title with a 25-22 victory.
“We used a lot of energy digging ourselves out of that hole and I thought they did a good job of just keeping it together enough to come back and win the game,” said Landgraf. “We really used our outsides in the first game, but the second game I wanted to spread the offense and were able to do that.”
Hamilton paced the Eagles with 12 kills, as Hausmann and Alyssa Yochum added six kills apiece.
Columbia (32-4) advances to the Herrin Sectional where the Eagles will take on Murphysboro Tuesday at 7 p.m. Mascoutah and Carbondale will play in the other semifinal at 6 p.m.
“It’s going to be challenging, but it’s going to be a fun sectional,” Landgraf said. “We are familiar with the teams there and they are familiar with us. It should be exciting.”