Effingham Daily News
With a 4-3 lead in Tuesday’s 2A Shelbyville Regional semifinal against Cumberland, the St. Anthony Bulldogs were trying to stop the Pirates from rallying to tie the score.
They did that, and then some, rattling off 14 unanswered points to take an 18-4 lead from which they never looked back.
The Bulldogs battled their way to a dominant 25-12 victory in the first set, en route to a straight set 25-12, 25-23 win to advance to Thursday’s championship against Pana.
“We played our game and we served them aggressively,” St. Anthony coach Kristie Bailey said. “We were able to keep them from setting their two big hitters.”
Cumberland made St. Anthony work for every point in the second set, and even forced a 21-21 tie before the Bulldogs pulled away .
Though the Bulldogs faced some adversity in the second set, Bailey was happy with the way her team kept battling.
“We did really well at staying calm when things weren’t going our way,” she said. “Towards the end of that match, we got back to the kind of volleyball we are used to playing.”
Haylee Mathis led the way for St. Anthony, picking up five kills, two blocks, 16 assists and seven digs. Megan Nuxoll added seven kills, six digs and a block, and Lauren Wendt had two kills, one block, seven digs and two aces.
Kassidy Hunt paced the Pirates, notching nine kills, an ace, 11 digs and two blocks. Kamisha Holsapple added seven digs, one block and 14 assists.
Though the Bulldogs hadn’t played in a while, Bailey said the layoff didn’t seem to affect her team very much on Tuesday night.
“It’s been about a week since we’ve had a game,” she said. “So it was nice to get back in the flow of things.”
She added that tonight’s victory was extra sweet, since Cumberland was the team that ended St. Anthony’s 2011 campaign.
“It was nice to get them back for taking us down in the (regional) championship last year,” she said.
Now, the Bulldogs will shift their focus to Pana, the top-seed in the Shelbyville regional. Thursday’s championship will begin at 6 p.m. at Shelbyville High School.
Bailey said her team is going to have to play near-perfect volleyball if they want to take down the No. 1 seed.
“They don’t make errors; they just wait for you to make errors,” she said. “It will be hard for us to beat them.”
But, with some hard work and some minor improvements, Bailey said the Bulldogs have what it takes to advance to sectionals.
“We have to work on tightening up our blocking and picking up our defense,” she said. “Our defense was kind of weak tonight.”
Pana advanced to the championship by knocking off the host team and No. 4 seed Shelbyville in three sets on Tuesday night.