Effingham Daily News
There will be a rematch of the three-set Gold Flight match-up from the National Trail Conference tournament between Stew-Stras and Neoga on Thursday, but neither team got there without having to chip away the spirit of excited opponents on Tuesday.
Stew-Stras got all it could handle of Dieterich in Tuesday's regional, starting the first set slowly and squeaking out a four-point win. The Comets asserted their dominance in the second set, though, winning the match 25-21 and 25-3.
Sarah Locke served 17 consecutive points in the Comets' 25-3 second set win on Tuesday, being one of only three Comets that served in the set – following in line with Baylee Quast and Kendall Knop.
Locke's streak was one of the bright spots of the match that started with unusually passive play, Stew-Stras head coach Ronda Schlechte said.
“We let Dieterich run their plays and kind of sat back,” Schlechte said of the first set. “I think we had six service errors and sometimes you can't come back from that.”
But Stew-Stras, the top seed in the Dieterich Regional, worked through its mistakes, leading from wire to wire in both the first and second sets of its match on Tuesday.
Schlechte said her team was nervous at the start of Tuesday's match, knowing a loss ended its season with Neoga watching closely from its seats.
On the other side of the court, Dieterich head coach Tamara Boerngen said her team was excited to play, coming off of its three-set win over Beecher City on Monday.
“They were actually playing their game, making very few mistakes and were ready for the ball,” Boerngen said. “We gave them a run in that first game and I don't think they expected that.”
Schlechte said she didn't have to say much to her team after clinching a tight first set, with experience up and down the roster.
“It depends on whether you want to play or not,” Schlechte said. “They know what they did wrong. At this point in the season, everybody knows the errors they're making and how they need to correct them.”
Stew-Stras' service game dominated the second set, as Knop finished with five aces and Locke with three, forcing a slew of Dieterich passing errors.
Boerngen said her team had no chance to return the Comets' serves, which meant Dieterich's offense couldn't get anything going like it had in the first set.
“The second game they just fell apart and couldn't pass the ball,” Boerngen said. “You can't play if you can't pass. They're a really strong team and our girls knew that coming into the night.”
The serves that Dieterich were able to handle ended up on the other side of the court into the setting hands of Quast, who consistently set up Becca Schlechte, Brittani Tabbert and Kendall Knop.
Quast led the team with 18 assists, which was 13 more than any other player on the team, and Schlechte finished with a team-leading 10 kills. Tabbert and Knop had seven kills apiece.
Neoga played its way into Thursday's rematch and regional championship by beating Cowden-Herrick in two sets, 25-10 and 25-13, during which the Indians had a distinctive height advantage.
“We're really little this year,” Cowden-Herrick head coach Crystal Wehrle said. “We have no height.”
Cowden-Herrick hung around in the first set, trailing 9-8, but committed two consecutive errors that allowed Neoga's Taylor Gresens and company to take control. Gresens had a team-high seven kills.
Like Dieterich in the first game, Wehrle said her team was excited to play a higher seeded opponent, but said her team struggled when it started making unforced errors.
“It took everything,” Wehrle said. “They got down on each other. They were just done. They gave up.”
Neoga scored 16 of the last 18 points, ahead 9-8, to win the first set 25-10 and controlled the second set in a similar fashion after jumping out to an 8-3 lead.
“It was a good win for Neoga – a good way to form up for the next one,” said Neoga assistant coach Julie Fritcher, who replaced an absent Reeni Letizia.
The “next one” for Neoga is the Class 1A Dieterich Regional championship against Stew-Stras on Thursday, which Fritcher said will be a battle of two similar teams.
Stew-Stras prevailed in the three-set NTC tournament match more than a week ago, winning the first and third sets 25-16 and 25-19 and losing the middle set 25-23.
Fritcher said both teams have heavy hitters on the attacking end, but said her team will have to do a good job adjusting to the Comets' ball placement.
“We're going to have to cover them,” Fritcher said. “They put it where they want to.”
Despite seeing Stew-Stras struggle in the first set against Dieterich on Tuesday, Fritcher said she doesn't put stock in what happened.
She said Stew-Stras' “awesome coaching staff” will have the Comets ready and focused to try to beat the Indians one more time to extend its season. She said the Comets' defense may have something to do with that.
“They have an outstanding defense, so even when we put it down they're going to be right there,” Fritcher said. “If we get out of our rhythm and start making mistakes, that'll be a difficult thing to come back from.”
Schlechte said she hopes the Stew-Stras team from the second set against Dieterich shows up on Thursday, but said she's confident it will.
The Stew-Stras coach said her team needs to go into Thursday's game with the same fire and intensity it played with against St. Anthony in its two-set win over the Bulldogs earlier this season.
“We're going to have to play that strong,” Schlechte said. “I know it's in them and I know it's there, it just depends on if it's going to show up that night and I really think it will.”
Stew-Stras and Neoga will play for the Regional Championship at 6 p.m. Thursday and the winner will continue its season at next week's Arcola Sectional.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stew-Stras 25 25
Dieterich 21 3
Stew-Stras: Schlechte (10 kills, 5 assists, 2 digs, 1 block), Quast (1 ace, 18 assists, 1 block), Knop (5 aces, 7 kills, 4 digs), Tabbert (7 kills, 1 assist, 2 digs, 1 block), Locke (3 aces, 2 digs), Kaufman (3 kills, 4 blocks)
Dieterich: Bohnhoff (4 digs, 1 kill, 5 assists), Lane (2 digs), Winters (2 digs, 1 kill), Zacha (1 kill), Thoele (1 ace, 2 digs, 2 kills), Vahling (4 digs, 3 kills, 1 block), Boerngen (1 kill, 3 assists, 1 block)
Neoga 25 25
Cowden-Herrick 10 13
Neoga: Kastl (2 kills, 11 digs, 1 ace), Ott (6 kills, 6 digs), Croy (4 kills, 2 digs, 2 blocks), Deters (4 kills, 4 digs, 2 aces), Long (17 assists, 5 digs, 1 ace), Harshman (6 digs, 2 aces), Gresens (7 kills, 4 digs, 6 aces), Partlow (1 dig), Easton (1 dig)
Cowden-Herrick: Lorton (2 kills), Morrison (1 kill, 1 block), Clearwater (1 kill, 1 block), Wehrle (1 ace)