PONTIAC – Three of the four teams in regional action on Tuesday represented the Heart of Illinois Conference.
In an all-HOIC opener, Eureka gave favored El Paso-Gridley everything they wanted, but the Titans escaped with a 22-25, 25-22, 25-15 victory. The nightcap saw the host Indians dispatch Fieldcrest 25-17, 28-26.
The first meeting between the U.S. Route 24 rivals saw EP-G (28-5) score a 25-18, 25-14 win nearly four weeks ago.
“We played them in early October and they made a lot of errors,” pointed out Hornets’ coach Lena Dohner of her squad’s performance. “We watched the video. We were ready. They came out fired up and ready to go.”
A service ace from Emily Streit clinched the first set for Eureka (19-15).
The second set was tied at 22 before the Titans posted the final three points to force a winner-take-all third.
EP-G built a 16-9 lead in the third after a kill from Ashlyn Mool, who recorded eight on the match, but sat out a portion of the third due to a twisted ankle. The Titans received 19 kills from seasonal leader Madi Funk.
“They’re very reliant on their outside hitters,” said Dohner referring to Funk and Mool. “One goes to the back row and the other goes to the front row. When Mool went down, they set to Funk in the back row. They like to set to the back row. That’s not uncommon.”
Joan Zimmerman’s 10 kills led Eureka, while Alexis Charlton added five. Darby Leman had 18 assists and seven service points, while Emily Streit added 20 digs and five points.
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Fieldcrest had an opportunity to extend the match to a third set, as they held a 23-21 in the second. It was tied at 23, 24 and 26. Each time, the Indians (15-14) went head.
Lindsey Hunt’s solo block gave Pontiac a 27-26 advantage before the ninth kill of the match from Brooke Fox clinched it for the Indians.
“We had a chance, but it was not like we were pulling away,” commented Knights’ coach Cathy Sanders. “The chance was there, but on both sides.”
Gracie Schultz led Fieldcrest (21-14) with nine kills from her middle hitting spot on the floor.
According to Sanders, the junior’s kill total should have been well up into double digits.
“I think we could have gone to her more than we should have,” she said. “They did not have an answer for her. In the end, we should have gotten it to her more. I think we hit the panic button.”
Schultz also served seven points, while Zada Baker and Maci Fandel each had nine assists.
In Thursday's final, EP-G eliminated the Indians in straight sets by scores of 25-20, 25-4.