PERU — Hannah Ballard powered down 16 kills in a dominating effort at the net, and Northwestern served up 15 aces to help take down county-rival Western 25-12, 25-9, 25-11 Tuesday in the opening round of Class 3A volleyball sectional play at Tig-Arena.
The Purple Tigers (15-12) advance to the sectional semifinals for the first time since 2002, where they will face Twin Lakes, a squad they split with during the regular season.
“This is great. I don’t know the record but it’s been several years since we’ve gotten that first-game win. So, we’re excited about it,” Northwestern coach Trina Yager said. “I know we’re going to have a tough match with Twin Lakes come Saturday morning. We’re two very evenly competitive teams so it’ll be a tough fight. But, the girls have it in them.”
Northwestern began the match on a quick 5-0 spurt before Western came back to pull within one on four different occasions in the opening set. A 6-0 run from the Tigers gave them a 17-10 lead, and they never looked back, finishing the opening set on a 14-2 run before starting the second set on a 12-3 roll.
Struggles to effectively receive serve left Western unable to establish offensive rhythm throughout the contest.
“It’s been an issue for us most of the year,” Western coach Nicole Rodman said. “We get on it in practice, but it doesn’t seem to translate into games. It’s tough to win being inconsistent. Being able to get consistent passes, set up and pound it down — we just weren’t able to do that.”
Northwestern’s stout service performance didn’t aid Western’s cause either. Emily Harshman led the way for the Tigers with 14 points and eight aces. Kelsey Richards added a team-high 16 points to go with three aces and Kristin Ireland added 12 points.