COBDEN — For the NCOE Fighting Cardinals advancing to the sectional final is just another day at the office, while for the host team Cobden making the finals is new territory.
Behind 14 straight successful serves and six aces by senior Grace Schroeder in the second set, the veteran Appleknockers advanced at the Cobden Class 1A volleyball sectional semifinals.
“I’ve never done any of that before,” Schroeder said. “I had missed my only two serves in the first set, so I was down and ready to get a serve in. After playing a tight first set we lit a fire under our bottoms. Our energy was high and we got real confident and they kind of shut down.”
Cobden (25-11) came in having won its fifth straight regional title, but had been swept in the sectional semifinals each time thereafter, but Monday night the Appleknockers weren’t to be denied sweeping Woodlawn, 25-20, 25-5.
“We had never won a set in a sectional, so I kept telling people if we could win a set and get the monkey off our back that we had a chance to get some of that pressure off and really roll,” said Cobden coach Nathan Emrick.
Cobden senior Alaina Hartline led the match with 13 kills with both junior Megan Rhodes and senior Meredith Flamm finishing with seven each.
The first set was a back-and-forth battle, with Cobden taking an early three-point lead, but Woodlawn rallying to take two-point leads three times. With Woodlawn leading 18-17 the Appleknockers went on a 7-3 run to make history.
“I’m really excited to think I have freshmen and sophomores playing with two seniors, so I have a lot coming back,” said Woodlawn coach Sara Lamczyk.
The run was started with two consecutive kills by Rhodes and an ace by Hartline. After Ashtyn Barton stopped the rally momentarily Rhodes scored back-to-back kills again.
After a bad shot by Woodlawn, Rhodes scored again to give Cobden set point. Madison Tiemann held off the inevitable on a dink, but Woodlawn’s next shot landed just out of bounds to hand Cobden its historic first sectional set win.
With that hurdle cleared the Appleknockers set their sights on making further history and it didn’t take them long to get the job done.
Cobden jumped out to a 5-2 lead with the help of two kills by Hartline. Schroeder then stepped behind the service line for the third time in the match. The previous two had lasted just one serve each - the first one of a net serve and the second on a serve over the end line.
Meredith Flamm got her service off to a good start with a kill from the left side. At that point Lamczyk called a timeout. When play resumed Schroeder served up an ace followed by a kill by Hartline and another ace when Lamczyk called another timeout.
Despite the break Hartline and Schroeder remained in the zone with a kill from the middle and her third ace followed by a kill by Flamm and two consecutive aces.
A bad shot by Woodlawn followed by kills by Flamm and Hartline kept the run going. Schroeder then served up his sixth ace and another bad Woodlawn shot extended the scoring run to 15 straight points and 14 consecutive successful serves.
Two kills by Haleigh Rynski along with a combined stuff kill by Rynski and Hannah Estes snapped the run, but Cobden rallied back with a 6-0 run that started with kills by Flamm and Hartline.
NCOE (29-3) swept Gallatin County, 25-9, 25-13, to advance to the sectionals finals for the second straight year. The Fighting Cardinals have won three sectional titles in school history (1990, 1992, 2016) and 13 regional titles and last year finished fourth at the state tournament.
“They had a game plan and played well,” said NCOE coach Jaclyn Melton. “All we wanted to do was play like we’ve been playing all year. We preach ball control and tonight we had only seven errors.”
Gallatin County (14-12) had lost to NCOE three times during the season and the Lady Hawks fell behind 7-0 in the first set during the serving of Emilee Bishop that included two aces and three kills by Halle Everett.
“We’ve been trying different things every time we play them,” said Gallatin County coach Cortney Legan. “Tonight we tried a triple block and even Jaclyn said what a good plan it was, but it just wasn’t our night.”
NCOE extended it lead to 12-2 and cruised to a 25-9 win. Everett led the first set with seven kills and finished with 18 for the match. Bishop added five kills to go with her two aces. Alex Thomas also finished with two aces and Caite Weiss had one.
Christ Our Rock Lutheran Sectional
Steeleville def. Brussels 25-17, 25-17
Valmeyer def. Hardin Calhoun 25-23, 25-23