EARLVILLE – The No. 2-seeded LaMoille/Ohio Lady Lions advanced to the championship match of the Earlville Class A Volleyball Regional Tuesday night, outlasting the host Leland/Earlville Lady Panthers, 25-16, 25-21.
Thus, LaMoille/Ohio (14-15) will face the top-ranked Newark Lady Norsemen in Thursday night’s regional title contest.
“We’ve struggled all year, to be honest, to have a good start like that,” said L/O coach Hallie May. “This was, by far, our best start.
“The intensity of the girls as we came out, I was especially worried about, (because) we haven’t had a game for just over a week. Our last game was Monday of last week, so I was a little concerned. It’s hard to (simulate) game time stuff in practice. So I was really pleased with the way we came, took control and just finished from there.”
The Lady Lions got off to a great start in Game 1 of the match, rushing out to early leads of 5-1 – on a solid Sheila Browning spike – and soon after, 9-3, when a Leland/Earlville return sailed too long, out of bounds.
When a Leland/Earlville potential spike went into, and not over, the net, L/O managed to push in front, 23-13 – the winners’ largest lead of either game.
The Lady Lions finished off Game 1, 25-16, on the strong serve of senior Ashley Schrader.
LaMoille/Ohio actually got off to an equally similar successful start in Game 2, pushing in front, 4-0 and 8-2, the latter tally prompting a Lady Panthers’ timeout.
The Lady Lions, which led by as many as six points (8-2) in the match’s second game, held a 12-8 lead, when the Lady Panthers staged a mini comeback.
Leland/Earlville (7-21) used an 8-3 run to post their first – and only – lead of the match, 16-15.
“I told the girls, you just need to calm down in those situations more than ever,” May said. “Whenever we get challenged ... that’s where we start throwing one arm out for a ball or we start making mental errors. So I just told the girls that somebody on the floor needs to step up and say, take a deep breath, and get back in control of the game.”
And the Lady Lions did just that, gaining a sideout to knot the score at 16-all and eventually pulling in front 20-16 on four pivotal service points by Vanessa Martinez. That 16-15 deficit proved to be L/O’s only one of the night.
The two teams split the final 10 points of the match, as L/O secured the victory on the first serve of the Panthers’ third swing through the lineup. “When we play well defensively, we get hands on the block. And we were getting digs off the blocks, and our serve receive was better,” said Lady Panthers coach Tonya Scherer. “We were hitting well and serving well. “When you do all the components of volleyball well, you’re going to score points and win. At that point, we were playing well. We were playing hard. Nothing was really hitting the floor, and we were doing what we needed to do.
“And then, they got the ball back and started serving, and our serve receive kind of fell apart for a little bit, and we just couldn’t get back in the game.”
With this regional semifinal victory, the Lady Lions have defeated the Lady Panthers three times this season. L/O rallied from a 21-9, Game 3 deficit to down Leland/Earlville in conference play, then out-lasted the Lady Panthers a second time in tournament play.
“The third game, they were up on us 21-9, and we came back,” May said of the two teams’ conference meeting. “That was one for the record books. So the girls, they’ve been hungry every time we’ve played them. We’ve just been ready to go.”
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