Down 22-17 in the third set Tuesday, the Belleville West Maroons realized their volleyball season was painfully close to being over. On the other side of the net, the Belleville East Lancers were poised to deliver an emotional upset over their city rivals.
The Maroons fought their way out, getting three kills from Nikki Gaskill and a crucial kill and block by Katherine Koch on the final two points to extricate a 25-18, 12-25, 25-23 victory over Belleville East in the semifinals of the Class 4A O’Fallon Regional.
“I think it really hit us when it was 22-17 and all the seniors and the whole team kind of felt it,” said Gaskill, whose 26-9 squad will face O’Fallon (30-6) for the regional title at 6 p.m. Thursday. “We were like ‘We do not want the season to end.’ This is probably one of our best teams that we’ve had and we’ve got a really close team, so we didn’t want it to end.
“We wanted to push, and that’s exactly what we did.”
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Up 22-17 following a block by Janae Mosby, East (16-18-2) managed only one more point the rest of the way.
Two East errors, a kill by West’s Kylie Burke and back-to-back kills by Gaskill helped the Maroons tie it 22-22, as they also got strong serves from Kaylee Hanger.
The Lancers took a 23-22 lead on a kill by senior Holly Badgley, who tied Derika Moore for the team lead with seven kills.
Another Gaskill kill tied it, then Koch had a block and a kill to close out the win.
I think it really hit us when it was 22-17 and all the seniors and the whole team kind of felt it. We were like ‘We do not want the season to end.’
West senior Nikki Gaskill
“I think the girls realized in the third set that their season was real close to being over,” West coach Lauren DeGirolamo said. “I don’t think they wanted it to be over. At the end Nikki had a couple timely kills and being a senior, maybe the reality was kind of setting in that if we don’t (get going) soon, we’re going to go home.
“Belleville East played very well tonight and we kind of just sat back and were lucky to come out with a win.”
Hanger led West with 13 kills, while Gaskill had seven. Koch had five kills and 21 assists, and Kacie Kinnikin had five aces and 13 digs. East got five kills from freshman Brooke Haas, 20 assists from Mosby and 22 digs from Brittany Pickens.
“It was definitely fun for us,” East coach Stefanie Gaubatz said. “We had a game plan, the girls were ready and they believed they could do it. I think it showed.”
Down 5-0 and 8-2 in the third set, the Lancers — who had lost 25-17, 25-10 to West earlier this season — refused to go quietly. Taking advantage of their own solid play and some hitting errors by West, they grabbed the lead and tried to deliver an upset.
“It was 22-17 and we just could not finish,” Gaubatz said. “It’s really frustrating because that was a great match. West played well and I think we played well and it was just very frustrating that we couldn’t get that one side-out to turn it around.
“We tried different things, we called timeouts, we shifted our serve-receive ... I think we just got tight.”
East got a five-point service run by Moore to help spur momentum in the second set, a 25-12 win that Moore closed out with a kill,
The Maroons got 10 service points and a seven-point run by Kinnikin, along with five kills by Hanger, on the way to winning the first set.
O’Fallon had no trouble with Collinsville (10-18) in the other semifinal, delivering 25-10, 25-8 victory to reach the regional championship. O’Fallon and West split two matches this season, both of which went three sets.
O’Fallon got eight kills from Elise Smith and Lauren LePere had an eight-point service run.
In other metro-east volleyball playoff action:
Class 2A Carlyle Regional
Althoff (18-12) knocked off Nashville by identical 25-16 scores to reach the regional championship while Carlyle got there with a 25-22, 25-18 victory over Cahokia Conference rival Wesclin. Carlyle’s postseason win avenged two three-set losses to Wesclin during the regular season.
Althoff will take on Carlyle for the regional title at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Class 3A Mater Dei Regional
Mascoutah overcame a 22-14 deficit in third set and reached the regional championship with a 25-17, 15-25, 25-23 victory over the host Knights. Mascoutah (26-8), which also beat Mater Dei in its season opener, will face Mississippi Valley Conference rival Highland (30-4-1) at 6 p.m. Thursday in the regional title game.
Highland, which defeated Olney Richland County 25-17, 25-16 in the semifinals, split two matches with Mascoutah this season in MVC play.
Class 3A Columbia Regional
Columbia moved to 34-0 with a 25-7, 25-18 regional semifinal win over Central, while Waterloo (23-8) also reached the regional championship match with a 25-18, 30-28 victory over the Freeburg Midgets. Columbia beat Waterloo twice this season.
Class 2A Chester Regional
Gibault (18-17) and Red Bud (14-18-3) reached the championship match at 6 p.m. Thursday with semifinal victories on Tuesday. Gibault lost 27-25 in the first set to Sparta before escaping with a25-16, 25-14 victories. Red Bud also needed three sets to get past Chester, winning 25-15, 25-27, 25-23.
Class 1A Playoffs
New Athens (20-12) reached the Class 1A Zeigler-Royalton Regional championship with a 25-17, 25-16 semifinal win over Crab Orchard on Tuesday. New Athens will face top-seeded Norris City-Omaha-Enfield in the regional title game on Thursday.
Okawville (16-10) will play host Woodlawn for the regional championship after knocking off Lebanon 22-25, 25-9, 25-19 in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Metro-East Lutheran and Lovejoy advanced to the championship of the Class 1A Metro-East Lutheran Regional with semifinal wins on Tuesday.