COAL CITY – Three strong starts, and two sufficient finishes, put Coal City one win away from its first sectional championship in girls volleyball since 1994.
In a semifinal match Tuesday at their own Class 3A sectional, the Lady Coalers defeated Lincoln-Way West, 25-20, 24-26, 25-16. They led for the majority of all three games, including by margins of 13-7 and 23-19 in the second.
“It’s crazy. It’s an awesome feeling,” Coal City outside hitter Emily Halliday said. “We had a good draw in the regional, so I knew we were more than capable of winning that. We came in, we’ve lost to the team [Illiana Christian] that [Lincoln-Way West] had beat in their regional championship, so we knew it was gonna be a tough game, but I had a feeling we could pull it out.”
With the Lady Coalers two points from ending the match in the second game, a Dani Morgan kill and three Rachel Johnson service points – two on aces – got Lincoln-Way West even. A block by Coal City’s Nicole Borgetti restored the set to the Coalers, but the Warriors got a sideout kill from Morgan before Carissa Lorenz killed the final two points to complete the comeback and tie it at one game each.
“We didn’t attack toward the end of the game, and they attacked,” Coal City coach Michael Lanoue said of the Warriors. “One of the things that we’re not used to seeing is the cutback, and it kind of has our defense going one direction. ... They found a way to attack and exploit something that we gotta work on.”
Coal City led from the start of Game 3 from a Halliday sideout kill that made it 2-1, but the Coalers did not pull away for good until they utilized the combination of Claire Smith’s hitting and Britta Spelde’s serving.
Smith had three kills during a run of five straight Spelde service points that broke open an 11-9 game. Smith then had a kill to end West’s subsequent trip to the service line without it producing a point.
Smith’s nine kills for the match were good for only the third-highest total on her team. Halliday had a match high 13 kills, and Spelde had 10 along with 12 points and three aces. Smith led all players with four aces.
“I saw that she was obviously getting the ball down at crucial times,” Coal City setter Kassie Aldridge, who had 27 assists, said of Smith. “So when the pass was there, I gave the ball to her. Again, we have such great hitters that it doesn’t really matter who I set.”
Standing in the way of Coal City and a sectional title is defending Class 3A state champion St. Francis, which dispatched of Joliet Catholic Academy 25-10, 25-18, in Tuesday’s second semifinal.
The championship match will be played Thursday at 7 p.m.