CRAB ORCHARD — Valmeyer came from behind in both sets to sweep Cobden, 26-24, 27-25, while NCOE broke open a close game in the first set to sweep Gallatin County, 25-18, 25-10, in the semifinals of the Marion (Crab Orchard) 1A volleyball sectional Tuesday.
"We didn't play our best game, but we were able to pull it out," said Valmeyer coach Jenny Kohnz. "We play a tough schedule and had one match that was 26-28, 27-25, and 32-30, so our girls know how to fight through."
Valmeyer (21-14) advances to the sectional championship game for the second straight year while NCOE (26-6) is making its first trip to the finals since 2007. The match will start at 6 p.m. on Thursday.
Valmeyer trailed 20-19 in the first set, but two kills by Jordyn Killy and a kill by Savannah Williams gave the Pirates the lead. A kill by Meredith Flamm and an ace by Inna Kinsey then tied the score for the 10th time.
Williams gave Valmeyer the lead, but a bad serve knotted the score again. Alaina Hartline's kill from the middle regained the lead for the Appleknockers, and at that point Valmeyer called a timeout. A minute later, Williams slammed the ball down to tie the score for the 12th time.
"I thought Savannah, who doesn't get set a lot, played solid defense in the back row and had a couple key kills from the outside," Kohnz said. "I also thought Blair Brady had a key block at the end of the first set."
Hartline took a shot from the middle again, but Brady blocked the shot and the ball fell inbounds. Megan Killy then hit her serve to the right back corner, where both Brooke Bailey and Elle Mason went for the ball and neither hit it to give the Pirates the first set.
Cobden (23-13) trailed 17-13 in the second set when the Appleknockers went on an 8-3 run to lead by three, 21-18. Kills by Harleigh Braden and Megan Rhodes and an ace by Mason then gave Cobden three set points.
However, Cobden missed two shots before Brady served up her third ace of the match tie the score at 24. A kill by Grace Schroeder followed by a kill by Jordyn Killy kept the score tied.
With Cierra Golschmidt serving, Williams gave the Pirates the lead on a dink from the left side. Jordyn Killy then scored on a shot from the middle for the winner.
"Winning tight games is something that we do," Jordyn Killy said. "You could feel the tension on the court by both teams. I looked around and saw their fans weren't really into it, especially on the last two points, while you hear our fans and all our girls really screaming. You could just feel we were going to take it."
Jordyn Killy and Cobden's Meredith Flamm led the match with nine kills each with Sam Seidel finishing with eight for the Pirates.
"When you're playing a team that's won a ton and made a super last year they are not going away," said Cobden coach Nathan Emrick. "Our girls did everything I asked them to do. My girls competed their tails off and I am so proud of them."
In the first semifinal match, the first set went back-and-forth, with neither team taking more than a two-point lead. With the score tied at 14, Halle Everett served up an ace to start a 9-1 run for NCOE led by four kills by Hope Everett.
"Sectional jitters for sure, but once our middles began to find the range they had trouble handling us," said NCOE coach Jaclyn Melton.
Hope Everett continued her hot hand with a kill from the middle to give the Fighting Cardinals set point, and a kill from the back row provided the winner.
NCOE jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the second set. The Lady Hawks cut the lead in half with four straight points, but that was as close as Gallatin County would get as NCOE cruised to the win.
"We knew they were going to be hard to beat because they defeated us three times during the season," said Gallatin County coach Cortney Legan. "I was proud of my team because they gave it all they had after they won the first regional title in school history."
Middle hitters Hope and Halle Everett led the match with 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Caitlin Lynch led Gallatin County with eight kills followed by Valerie Ahrens with six.