JOHNSTON CITY — Carterville started out slow in both sets, but the Lady Lions rallied Monday night to beat Carmi-White County in straight sets, 25-19, 25-14, to advance to the championship match of the Class 2A Johnston City Sectional.
“I think tonight we got to see kind of what it’s like when you’re not the underdog coming in,” said Carterville coach Nathan Emrick. “I felt we were a little tight to start and made some unforced errors early, but I thought we did a really good job of grinding it out in the first set and really picking up in the second set with some big runs.”
The Lady Lions improved to 33-5 on the season and will face Nashville (32-5) in the championship match at 6 p.m. Wednesday night.
“This will be the fourth time we will play Nashville with Nashville winning the first two and we beat them the last time in three sets,” Emrick said. “Nashville is probably one of the scrappiest best defensive team we faced and they’ve got Hazel Konkel, who is one of the best players in Southern Illinois. If we can play our game and stay in the moment, I think we’ll have a shot.”
Nashville beat Hamilton County in straight sets, 25-13, 25-9, led by Konkel with 10 kills followed by eight each from Reese Varel and Talanie Kozuszek.
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“No secrets,” said Nashville coach Josh Konkel. “It’s going to be an interesting match. The key will be ball control. The team that can pass the ball best on serve-receive and control that ball and keep the hitters and setter in system will have the advantage.”
Bella Mavigliano led Carterville with eight kills followed closely by Ally Lange with seven and Amanda Howerton with six. Carmi-White County’s Jessica Smith led the match with 10 kills.
“We knew they had Smith, who’s pretty dynamic and we knew they were going to play super hard and really scrap it up,” Emrick said.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first set with Smith setting the pace with three kills. At that point, Emrick called timeout to settle his team down.
“We were missing some defensive assignments and I felt we needed to calm down and get back to business,” Emrick said.
The Lady Lions came out of the short break and kept the margin at four for the next six points until Sydney Stuck slammed a kill from the middle and Maryn Vaughn got a stuff kill. Mavigliano scored on a dink to cut the lead to one.
After a Bulldogs point, Vaughn scored from the left side and two unforced errors on Reese Brunkin’s serve gave Carterville its first lead of the set 11-10. Lange kept the rally going with a kill from the middle before Brunkin served up an ace. Mavigliano then scored from the left side and the Lady Lions led 14-10.
The Bulldogs would cut the lead to two four times with the last being at 20-18, but Carterville held onto its momentum and closed out the set on a 5-1 run with Regan Eigenrauch scoring the final two points.
Mavigliano had five kills in the first set with Lange adding four and Eigenrauch three. Smith also had five for the Bulldogs.
The score was tied seven times at the beginning of the second set with the last being 10-10 on a kill by Lange.
Mavigliano then stepped behind the line and Smith missed on a shot from the left side and then was stuffed by Vaughn and Lange to give Carterville a two-point lead. Smith found the range on her next shot to cut the lead back to one, but a kill by Lange got the ball back and with Taylor Wallace serving, the Lady Lions scored the next four points.
Smith stopped the run, but a violation again gave the ball back to Carterville with Lange doing the honors behind the service line. Six points later, after Lange served up an ace, the Lady Lions had set and match point, 24-12.