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BISMARCK – The Oct. 29 semifinal at the Bismarck-Henning Sectional featured two matches between a pair of leagues, the Heart of Illinois Conference opposite the Illini Prairie Conference.

The IPC went two for two, as St. Joseph-Ogden downed Fieldcrest 25-12, 25-21 in the opener, while Champaign St. Thomas More (36-4) bounced El Paso-Gridley (25-10) 25-13, 25-12 in the nightcap.

Fieldcrest (27-9) stuck with SJ-O (30-4) in the first set, as they trailed 9-8 after a kill from Alyx Carls.

The Spartans responded and pulled away, as they rang up 16 kills in the set. They shifted their attack between outside and middle.

“It’s not tough to adjust to. They went to the middle in the first set and went outside in the second set,” said Knights’ coach Cathy Sanders. “If we had more experience under our belts, they would not have had that many kills.”

SJ-O managed nine kills in the second set for a total of 25.

Fieldcrest held a 4-2 advantage in the second following a Gracie Schultz solo block. The set was tied at eight before one of six kills from first-year hitter Kennedi Burnett gave the Spartans the lead for good.

Katelyn Berry and Emory Ericksen tied for team honors with seven kills.

According to Sanders, she pointed out what was the Knights’ flaw.

“It was our serve receive. We just could not get our passing going,” she said. “Some of our players were not available, which kept them from blocking and playing defense.”

Rylee Walsh directed the Spartans’ offense to the tune of 18 assists. She also served eight points.

Emma Petersen had seven kills for the Knights, while Carls followed with five. Lexi Jochums handed out 11 assists.

SJ-O also held a nine to two edge in service aces.

Despite the setback, it did not dampen what Fieldcrest accomplished.

“That’s exactly what our talk was afterward,” commented Sanders. “Their success was because of the amount of time they put in. Sometimes, the coach was not always there. They did a lot of their own things in practice to get better. Twenty-seven wins that says a lot about them and the kind of players they are. They got back up there in the conference, they won two tournaments and a regional. Overall, I’m really really proud of them.”

Notes: The Sabers, the reigning two A champions, went on to eliminate SJ-O 25-22, 25-13 in the final and sweep Seneca 25-22, 25-19 in Friday's Watseka Supersectional to advance to the Final Four at Redbird Arena on the Illinois State University campus in Normal. They'll face Pleasant Plains in one semi Friday, while Galena takes on Nashville in the other. The winners meet in Saturday's championship match.

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