LEXINGTON — Anna Hayes has had a state tournament berth on her mind since she was six years old. So if the Hartsburg-Emden High School senior seemed in a hurry Friday night to secure a trip to Redbird Arena, who can blame her?
A 5-foot-11 University of Memphis recruit, Hayes delivered three kills in the first six points to send the Stags in motion toward a 25-13, 25-12 victory over Flanagan-Cornell in the Class 1A Lexington Super-Sectional.
She finished with 13 kills as Hartem improved to 35-4 and advanced to a state semifinal at 10:30 a.m. Friday against Decatur St. Teresa.
The Stags won handily after bolting to a 22-5 lead in the opening set.
"Oh my gosh. I think the good start calmed our nerves," Hayes said. "We were so nervous going into this. We wanted it. We've put the work in, so this is well-earned for us."
Hayes and 5-10 sophomore Grace Beekman (10 kills) provided a 1-2 hitting punch that made things difficult for Flanagan-Cornell.
Beekman also had a team-high 13 assists while Lily Escobedo added 11.
"Neither team had been to state in a while and when you're one step away it's nerve racking," said Hartem coach Jennifer Hayes, Anna's mother. "I thought Anna showed great leadership and Lexi (Barry) did as well.
"Lexi was making the pass on a dime and we were getting the set and Anna was putting it down. I think that got Flanagan on their heels."
Izzy Classen had a team-high six digs, while Barry and Emily Craig added five each for the Stags.
Anna Hayes was six when her mother coached Hartem to its only state title in 2006.
"She was in kindergarten. She's wanted to do this ever since," Jennifer Hayes said. "We were so close her freshman year. We were ranked No. 1 all year and got upset. Everyone graduated and we had to rebuild. These girls deserve it. They work hard inside the court and outside the court."
Flanagan-Cornell found a bit of rhythm after falling behind 22-5, using a 7-0 run to make it 22-12. A Beekman kill stopped the surge and another kill by Beekman moments later sealed the set.
The Falcons were within 6-5 in the second set until Hartem reeled off six points for a 12-5 lead. Later in the set, Anna Hayes had kills on five straight Hartem points as the lead grew to 22-10.
"Our team doesn't have an 'if' mentality, but a 'when' mentality," she said. "We do visualization and we're just going out and getting what we want."
McKenna Roth had four kills, while Kayla VanWeelden and Rachel Harrison added three each for Flanagan-Cornell (25-12-1). Madelyn Forney had 11 assists and Harrison led in digs with eight.
"They (the Falcons) worked hard all year long and they earned to get to this point. We just came up against a really good team and that's why they're moving on and we're not," Flanagan-Cornell coach Joe Estes said.
"If we were to beat them it would have taken an extraordinary effort. We would have had to play perfect. That just doesn't happen all the time."