BUNKER HILL — Northwestern and Western will clash for the third time this season Saturday after each won its opener in the Class 3A Maconaquah Volleyball Sectional on Thursday evening.
Northwestern fought off the host Braves to take a 22-25, 25-22, 25-14, 26-24 victory. Western made quick work of Peru in a 25-8, 25-14, 25-19 victory.
The Purple Tigers and Panthers will square off at 1 p.m. Saturday in the second semifinal. Oak Hill, which had a bye, faces Tuesday’s winner Eastern in Saturday’s first semi at 11 a.m. The championship is at 7 p.m.
NW 3, MAC 1
After dropping the first set, the Tigers rallied from behind in the second set to turn the match their way. Maconaquah led 19-15 and was in good position to take the second set when NW found its footing. Leah Carter smacked a kill then had a solo block and Emily Goltz followed with an ace to pull a point down.
After five back-and-forth points, Northwestern scored the set’s final five points with Tori Closson serving the last four. McKenna Layden had two kills sandwiched around a combo block with Kenzie Rogers for the last three points.
“We had to get that second set I felt like for our own confidence, feeling like we were still in the match,” NW coach Kathie Layden said. “I think it would have been hard if we would have gone down 2-0.”
At that point, the Tigers took the upper hand in energy and Mac didn’t get its footing again until a tight fourth set.
“I felt like our blocking in the second game really helped kind of turn the tide of momentum for us,” Kathie Layden said. “We hit a couple good quick blocks. I felt like that gave us some more energy.”
Tigers took the third set comfortably, then outlasted Mac in a tense fourth. McKenna Layden’s tip kill to an open spot finished the match. McKenna Layden finished with 21 kills, five blocks and 18 digs. Carter had 14 kills and four blocks. And freshman setter/hitter Rogers had nine kills, five blocks and 14 assists. Bailey Henry had four kills.
Jaci Elson added 16 assists and 21 digs. Morgan walker 26 digs and Closson a team-best 38, earning praise from Kathie Layden.
“Maconaquah, first of all, I thought played a really great game,” Kathie Layden said. “I was really impressed with them. I thought we looked like a typical young team going into the first round of sectionals. Nerves were really high and we looked really tight to start the game.”
The Tiger coach thinks getting their feet wet with a tough match can help the Tigers (16-10) on Saturday.
“I told the girls after the game, getting your first win in a sectional — especially like I said the majority of these girls, this is their first sectional they’ve ever played in — so going in and getting that first win helps ease the nerves I think. Now you’ve got to play more confident and play your own game.”
Avery Miller had 15 points, 27 digs and 45 assists for the Braves (10-14). Lilly Maple had seven kills, 37 digs and 15 service receptions. Taylor Roesler had 15 digs, seven receptions and 15 kills. Aubree Dedaker had 17 digs and 32 receptions. Emma Warnock had a dozen digs. Atlanta Huckleby had 13 digs. Brooke Borden had eight kills. Molly Kelly had 12 receptions and 19 digs. Anna Borden had nine digs.
WESTERN 3, PERU 0
The Panthers established control instantly, putting down the first four points of the first set with a Peru error, two aces by Sadie Harding, and a kill from Taylor Scott. They cruised through the opening set, then trailed just once in the second set at 3-2. The third set was closer but Peru never posted a lead and the Panthers wrapped up the action quickly.
“I would say that we swung hard,” Western coach Jessica Oliver said. “Our offense was pretty good. Haley Scott played great on the net. We played at our level the majority of [Thursday] night’s match.”
Western go-to attacker Hilary Merica finished with a dozen kills. Taylor Scott and Haley Scott each had seven kills. Sadie Harding dished 18 assists. Linsay Guge had 15 service points and Taylor Scott 14.
Oliver said the Panthers (16-14) received serves well, passed well and set well. The Panthers spread the swings around and got contributions from a host of players. The Panthers took energy from Peru quickly and never let the Bengal Tigers (6-27) sustain a charge.
“We have seven seniors, so this is their second season. It’s go time,” Oliver said.
Next up is a rematch with Northwestern, which beat the Panthers twice in the regular season.
“The first time we went five, the second time we saw them in conference and it was our third game of the day and it was kind of ‘eh,’” Oliver said. NW won that matchup in two sets. “But I think we’ll be fired up. I mean, it’s all in at this point.”