NORMAL – Brittani Tabbert was on a mission to bring Stew-Stras to Saturday’s IHSA Class 1A state championship game and she paved the way in the Comets’ two-set semifinal win over New Athens on Friday.
The senior almost single-handedly pulled her team out of an early second-set hole, 8-4, with four kills during the Comets’ six-point run that included a New Athens mishit and service error.
Tabbert tied for a team-high nine kills with Kendall Knop and served her only ace of the contest during a four-point Stew-Stras rally later in the second set.
“I just wanted to win,” Tabbert said. “Being here is just amazing and I wanted to be in the championship.”
The Comets (28-12) will play Keith Country Day (38-3) for the Class 1A state championship at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Redbird Arena in Normal, but it was two late-set tips off the hands of Becca Schlechte that helped clinch the spot in Saturday’s game.
“The other team started pulling back deep for the hitting, because we didn’t do a lot of tipping,” Stew-Stras head coach Ronda Schlechte said. “Finding those holes was huge.”
Becca Schlechte’s first tip gave the Comets a 20-19 advantage and her second tip pulled them out of another tie game to take a 22-21 lead in the second set.
However, New Athens (28-10) held the lead late, 23-22, after losing the first set by 13 points and the Yellow Jackets’ nerves may have gotten the best of them. A service error gave Stew-Stras the ball back, 23-23, for the final two points of the match.
“I felt my girls stand up a little,” New Athens head coach Kyla Patton said. “(Stew-Stras) played on their toes. They anticipated everything and looked awesome out there.”
The final four appearance was the first in New Athens’ school history and Patton said she felt like her team was a bit “star struck.”