A strong start and steady play – Anna set the tone early and rarely faltered.
The Falcons put them to the test and the Rockets passed with a 25-16, 17-25, 25-23, 25-21 win in the Division III regional semifinals at Fairmont’s Trent Arena Thursday.
Anna jumped out a quick 9-3 opening set lead while Fenwick struggled from the opening serve.
“We were so wound up, so jazzed, I think we just had too much adrenaline,” Fenwick coach Yoon Ha said. “We were just bombing them and they took advantage.”
The Falcons quickly changed the momentum, jumping out to a 6-1 lead behind solid serving and a more controlled offense in the second set.
“We settled down and played our game,” Ha said.
Meanwhile, the Rockets had a familiar letdown.
“We’ve been struggling to try to maintain the energy,” Anna first-year coach Kelli Barhorst said. “Our energy level drops a notch and that can be very draining.”
Knotted at a set apiece, Anna took an early third-set lead, but Fenwick fought back. The Falcons led 20-15 late forcing Barhorst to burn her second timeout. The challenge of coming from behind wasn’t overly daunting for the Rockets.
“We work on that a lot,” Barhorst said. “That’s not the first time we’ve been down by that much or more. You just need to stay disciplined and stay focused.”
The Rockets responded with a 10-3 run and a third-set win.
“Losing that third set – the fact that we couldn’t close the door – took it out of us,” Ha said.
But despite trailing from start to finish in the fourth set, the Falcons fought to the end – a kill by Anna outside hitter Courtney Landis.
“That’s the thing I told them I was most proud of,” Ha said. “We could have quit but we didn’t. They finished strong and gave me everything they had.”
Anna will face defending state champion Miami East in the regional final Saturday, the same team that bumped them out of the regional semifinals last year. Miami East sped to a straight-set semifinal win over Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, 25-14, 25-16, 25-12.
The Vikings, 26-1 on the season, are midway through their tournament countdown with their regional semifinal win.
“We count them down for a reason, we started with eight,” Miami East coach John Cash said. “The kids are hungry. Last year, after the title game, they didn’t want it to end.”
Balance has been the key to success all season for the Vikings and Thursday was no exception. While Miami East didn’t have a single player hit double digit kills, Abby Cash had nine, Angie Mack had eight and Samantha Cash and Leah Dunivan both posted seven.
“We have five kids over 145 kills this season,” Cash said. “Balance is key to what we are.”
That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement.