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Prep Volleyball | Carterville downs Pinckneyville to take regional crown

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CARTERVILLE — Carterville High School's spikers went on a 6-0 run late in the third set to erase a three-point deficit (18-15) and take a three-point lead (21-18) en route to a hard-fought 25-22, 22-25, 25-19 victory over visiting Pinckneyville in the finals of the Class 2A volleyball regional Thursday.

The battle — the fifth this season between the two schools with Carterville winning three of the five — was much like a heavyweight title fight with both teams landing just enough jabs and upper cuts to keep the other team from pulling away to a large lead.

Senior Bella Mavigliano of the Lions led the offensive charge with a team-high 15 kills. She also recorded 11 assists and two blocks. Several of her kills were well placed dinks, which are akin to a change up in softball.

"I was really proud of our team for keeping our composure and battling back to win this match," Mavigliano said. "We always say, 'Next play,' and that was huge for us tonight. We played our game and didn't let them control it."

The senior said winning the school's first regional title since 2014 is special to her and her teammates.

"This means everything to us. We hadn't won one in like forever, and now we get to go to the sectional. We're pretty confident right now."

Delivering the match-winning serve, an ace, and also finishing second for the Lions in kills with five was senior Amanda Howerton.

"This was something I've never felt before," Howerton said of the victory. "It was crazy trying to focus while playing before this huge student section tonight. It was nearly impossible to maintain our composure because this is the only time we went three sets with Pinckneyville and not lost, so this was a big deal for us."

Lions head coach Nathan Emrick was obviously pleased with the win.

"That run in the third set was really the first time all night that I felt like we were able to get on a run from behind the service line," he said. "The big thing was that Amanda (Howerton) just kept it clean. She was able to serve aggressively and keep the pressure on them. It just kind of turned the tide."

Emrick said it's no small accomplishment to beat a volleyball program like the Panthers.

"They're a quality team, and we had to work hard to beat them. Our girls just played so hard tonight and continued to battle. I'm so proud of them."

The Panthers were led by Kassidy Lee's 13 kills. She also had one block and five digs. Lily Tanner recorded seven kills, four blocks and 20 digs. Jenna Opp had two kills, two blocks and eight digs with one service ace. Addie Waggoner contributed 22 digs to go along with 11 kills. Emily Ruppert had 21 digs and two assists. Jillian Shaneyfelt added 24 assists and 11 digs. Ava Adcock had four kills and 19 digs.

Pinckneyville head coach Katie Shaneyfelt expected a tough match.

"We knew it was going to be like this. Carterville is outstanding. They have gotten better every time we have seen them. We knew it was going to be a struggle, and it was. I hope they go far because they have a lot going for them."

Carterville, now 32-5 overall, will face off with Carmi White County on Monday in the opening round of the Johnston City Sectional.

Pinckneyville closes out its season at 23-7.

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