WORTHINGTON -- Top-seeded Adrian and No. 2 Tracy-Milroy-Balaton were the favorites, and both advanced with victories in 3A South semifinal volleyball play here Tuesday night.
But neither one had an easy time of it.
Adrian dropped a set for one of the few times this season en route to a 3-1 triumph over fifth-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove, and T-M-B was forced to go the distance with upset-minded Murray County Central before the Chargers edged the sixth-seeded Rebels 3-2.
Adrian, which improved to 27-2, will look for its second straight 3A South championship Thursday night at 7:30 in Marshall against perennial power Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (20-10).
Adrian 3, W-WG 1
The Dragons own 21 straight-set victories on the season, so it was a bit stunning when the Chargers earned a 25-23 victory in the second set.
“We maybe got a little over-confident,” said Adrian senior setter Kasie Tweet, whose team eventually won 25-13, 23-25, 25-10, 25-14. “We started making a few errors and they were hitting the ball a little harder. It opened our eyes that they were going to play, so we decided we had to show Westbrook that was not our team.”
Adrian’s high-powered hitting attack featured Bailey Lonneman (18 kills), Marisa Lehnhoff (16) and Brianna Reckamp (11). The Dragons of coach Brittany Jackson have many weapons indeed at the net.
“It’s nice to have a lot of options and I know I can always depend on all of them,” said Tweet, who had 43 set assists.
The Chargers (14-15) were led by senior southpaw hitter Alli Vandekieft and senior middle blocker Camryn Bunting.
“We came up a little bit short, but I wish we’d been able to play how we’re capable all four games,” said Chargers’ coach Meghann Westover. “But honestly, we did a little bit better than anyone was expecting us to.”
Lehnhoff and Lonneman were particularly effective in the third set.
“Marisa (Lehnhoff) really gave us a run for our money on that right side,” said Westover.
In the final set, the talented Reckamp contributed some excellent back-row work and effective spiking. She finished with 12 digs, while teammates Shawna Rogers (14 digs, six kills) and freshman Mayssa Tweet (23 digs) were also standouts.
Bunting said the Chargers did all they could.
“We gave them a battle and did our best,” she said. “Adrian has an amazing team. We gave it our all, but at the end we just ran out of energy.”
Adrian coach Brittany Jackson was pleased with her team’s response to dropping the second set.
“It didn’t get us down, but it prepared us moving forward,” Jackson said. “It’s fun to watch (her hitting attack). It’s great to see them get excited and be confident. That’s where we had to grow this year so it’s good seeing the improvement.”
T-M-B 3, MCC 2
The powerful Panther program has a roster laden with youth, but its winning tradition counts for much at tournament time.
Catherine Wendland, one of the few seniors who sees extended action for coach Rick Haberman, was a difference-maker down the stretch as the Panthers prevailed in a dramatic match before an energized crowd, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 20-25, 15-11.
“They really put up a good fight,” Wendland said. “We had a lot of grit in the last set. We kept pushing hard and we talked a lot on the floor.”
Sophomore setter Maddi Langerock, junior outside hitter Jadyn Lessman and freshman hitter Amber Hensch all contributed to the T-M-B victory.
Murray County Central got stellar front-row play from hitters Shelby Christensen, Bryn Hoekman and Emily Rohrer. Senior setter Brianna Schmitz and junior hitter Amber Boock also had some fine moments.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to go out,” said Christensen. “But it was fun. We put up a battle.”
The MCC squad had a roller-coaster type of season and finished 9-16-1 overall. The Rebels played their best volleyball down the stretch and Tuesday night nearly pulled off a monumental upset.
“We were living in the moment,” said Christensen. “We were using energy from our students (a large cheering section) and we gave it our all.”
The Rebels seemed to have the momentum after winning the fourth set and leading by two points several times in the deciding one. But the Panthers, who have no less than seven state championships on their resume, made the key plays when it mattered most.
“The whole night our girls were right there,” said MCC coach Kate DeLong. “We did a lot of mental preparation, had a good game plan and I think we executed it well. It was a matter of who was going to finish more often and put that ball on the floor more often, and sometimes it was us and sometimes it was Tracy. In the end it was them.”