Class 1A Flanagan-Cornell Regional with matches involving the Falcons and Lexington.
All the non-Heart of Illinois Conference volleyball teams have been eliminated from the Class 1A Flanagan-Cornell Regional to leave the championship match an all-HOIC match.
The host Falcons did away with rival and co-op partner Woodland in two sets in the first match, and Lexington rolled past Gardner-South Wilmington in two sets in the late contest. Flanagan-Cornell and the Minutemen will square off for the title and sectional berth on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Flanagan-Cornell 2, Woodland 0
The Warriors gave Flanagan-Cornell a bit of trouble early, taking the lead and playing good defense. But the Falcons were able to shake off the blahs and found a groove in claiming the first semifinal match 25-12, 25-15.
“It’s just one of those nights. We came out super slow, we played on Saturday so it’s not like we hadn’t played. We just really started slow,” FCHS head coach Joe Estes said. “(We) finally figured it out and everything started working.”
Molly Garretson registered a kill that gave the Falcons a 3-1 lead early, but Woodland rallied with the help of two errant attacks to tie it up with Kaitlyn Walter serving.
Walter registered an ace to give the Warriors a 4-3 lead and a kill off a set pushed across the net by Audrey Jenkins made it 5-3.
Rachel Harrison got a kill for a sideout, but the Falcons could not draw even until Kayla Van Weelden blocked a Woodland attack made it 8-8. Van Weelden then hammered a kill and McKenna Roth served an ace as Flanagan-Cornell built a 10-8 lead.
Roth continued her service run, which included another ace and another Van Weelden kill, until a Woodland timeout at 13-8.
Van Weelden got the serve after delivering a kill garnered a sideout and made it 19-12. Van Weelden served out the game with two aces, a Roth kill and three Woodland errors.
The Falcons were able to move the ball, giving hitters many opportunities. They finished with five different players registering kills on the night.
Van Weelden had three kills and Garretson added one as Flanagan-Cornell took a 6-1 lead in the second set. The Warriors got no closer than three points the rest of the way.
“I told the setters that I wanted to go to the same person multiple times and we did a pretty good of that tonight,” Estes said. “We worked the middle well, passing was 90 percent of the time really good. We played a pretty complete game.”
Van Weelden finished with 7 kills and 3 blocks while Regan Reed contributed 4 kills and Garretson and Roth each had 3. Van Weelden also had 8 service points and Reed added 6.
Lexington 2, GSW 0
Lexington and Gardner-South Wilmington threw punches at each other in the first set with the Minutemen landing more down the stretch to take the opener, and then continue that momentum through the second for a 25-20, 25-17 victory.
“It’s the first set of regionals, postseason, we had to work through some jitters, some nerves and all that, but once we settled down and focused on executing our game plan, no one could stop us,” said LHS head coach Kelli Shaffer.
For the Minutemen, it was the one-two punch of Tia Hardt and Jayden Standish who delivered the big blows. Hardt finished the night with 18 kills and Standish chalked up 14.
They seemed to come in bunches. Standish collected three kills as Lexington took a 4-3 lead in the first set. When Hardt made the front row, the high-flying junior smacked the Panthers for four kills in a five-play span.
It was like that all night for these girls.
There were others who contributed. Layken McGuire came up with a big kill late when her tip landed for a sideout that cut GSW’s lead to 19-17. Hardt then had two kills to tie it at 19-19.
Hardt had two more kills as the Minutemen charged to the finish of the first set. LHS scored the final six points for the win.
The two sides had three lead changes and two ties to start the second set. The last of each came on kills from Standish and Hardt as the Minutemen took a 4-3 lead. Another Hardt kill helped create some breathing room.
Lexington strung together some other runs in building the lead. Standish had a block, Megan Kelley added a kill and Hardt served an ace in one surge.
The Minutemen pulled away with the help of a defense that was active, especially at the second level.
“We worked on that this last half of the season, knowing we’re capable of getting those balls up and just having that mentality that nothing hits on our side — all effort, all the time — and I think that showed tonight,” Shaffer said of the defense.
McGuire added 3 kills, a block and 13 service points for the Minutemen. Gracy Michel had 35 assists. On defense, Standish and Hardt each came up with 24 digs.
Flanagan-Cornell is the top seed in the tournament with Lexington being the third and looking for another upset.
“It’s a challenge, but we’ve been challenged all season and we’re ready to prove that we are better than our record shows,” Shaffer said of Thursday’s title match.
The winner will advance to the Blue Ridge Sectional.