BENTON — Murphysboro and Harrisburg advanced to Thursday’s Class 3A regional volleyball finals with wins Tuesday night.
Murphysboro reached the 30-win mark for the fourth time in program history with a 25-23, 25-21 win over Benton. Harrisburg disposed of Carbondale 25-21 and 25-19 in the second match.
Although the Red Devils won in straight sets, there was nothing easy about the win. The 24th point of the second set was a microcosm of the night.
Murphysboro set Mikayla Brasel on the left side. The senior fired a laser across court, but Benton got a hand on the ball. The ball caromed off the ceiling, but the Rangerettes managed to get the ball over the net.
The Red Devils went right back to Brasel. This time she went down the line and the ball found the floor.
“It seemed that way (all night), but I was really proud of our kids,” said Murphysboro coach Mike Layne. “They didn’t get rattled. They just stayed the course and tried to run our system and do our style.”
Connor McBride then closed out the match with an ace.
Murphysboro had to fight its way out of a 9-3 deficit in the first set. And, although the Red Devils opened a 14-7 lead in the second, Benton closed to 23-21 before Murphysboro finally nailed down the win.
Layne wasn’t surprised by the competitive match.
“Benton probably has the second best outside hitter in the area, Brooklyn Calcaterra,” he said. “We knew if they got her on a roll they’d be dangerous. They’re much improved as the season goes on. They well remember when we throttled them 11 and 13 at their place. It’s the fourth time we’ve seen them. They’re a formidable eighth seed, I wanna tell you.”
Mallorie Harris led Murphysboro with 11 kills on 18 attacks. Brasel had seven and Angel Jones six.
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Murphysboro advances to the regional title game with a 30-5 mark. Benton finished at 20-20.
In the second match Harrisburg seemed to take advantage of every Carbondale error in a two-set win.
The tone was set early in the match when Harrisburg opened a quick 7-3 lead on several Carbondale errors, a Jessica Schwartz ace and a pair of Bryleigh Buchanan kills. The Terriers stabilized at that point, closing to 18-16 at one point.
However, kills by Devin Butler Karsyn Davis and a Carbondale lift put the Bulldogs back in control.
Davis played a huge role in Harrisburg’s victory, especially when Carbondale’s blockers clogged up Buchanan and Matty Hawkins in the middle.
“Karsyn has done a phenomenal job all year,” said Harrisburg coach Heather Cox. “She is our go-to girl. If in doubt, if someone is not playing well, or it’s a crap set we know we can throw it over 24’s way and she’ll do something with it. She’s a huge asset.”
The Bulldogs finally put the first set away on a Raegan Thompson kill.
The second mirrored the first as Carbondale’s passing game limited the Terriers offensive opportunities, allowing Harrisburg to open a 9-4 lead.
“Any time a team doesn’t serve receive well it’s bad news for the offense,” Cox said. “That’s something we did well. Thankfully it’s something they struggled at and it gave us an advantage offensively.”
Once again, after falling behind, Carbondale battled back, closing to 18-14, but a four-point Butler service run gave Harrisburg a 24-15 lead. The Terriers fended off match points before Hawkins found the floor with a solid spike.
“One of things we’ve worked on the last few games is motivation and trying to stay positive and feeding off those errors that other teams have fed off us in the past,” Cox said.