By Dave Malaska
UNION, Ky. – St. Henry rallied from a set down to take its Region 9 volleyball quarterfinal over Cooper, 23-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-22, 15-9, Tuesday night at Ryle High School.
The Crusaders (26-8), already down two sets to one, trailed 15-11 in the fourth set before rallying for eight straight points. They held on as Cooper (25-8) came back, forcing a fifth set with freshman Paige Noble's kill that caromed off a Jaguar defender then the ceiling before falling unreturned.
After clawing their way to a 6-5 lead in the deciding set, the Crusaders went on another short run sparked by a block shared by sophomores Kayla Riegler and Janelle Tobler, then kills by Riegler and junior Sarah Krugel before Tobler logged an ace to put St. Henry up, 10-5.
The teams traded points until senior Karlee Schreiber's third service ace of the night ended the match.
"We knew it was going to be a tough one. Cooper's got some big hitters, and we're still young," said Crusaders coach Maureen Kaiser. "We weren't placing the ball, just counting on going up and swinging, before we started to find their holes later in the game."
Tobler led the Crusaders with 21 kills. Fellow mid Karly Lehmkuhl finished with 11 kills and four blocks to aide the effort.
Freshman Kaity Smith led the Jaguars with 15 kills, while senior Hannah Reid and junior Carley Powers added eight apiece.
The teams fought tooth and nail throughout the match, making runs and rallies in turns.
Cooper weathered a late St. Henry rally in the first after leading, 23-18. The Crusaders fought back to tie the game at 23, then suffered a pair of unforced errors to give Cooper the set.
St. Henry built a five-point edge midway through the second set before pulling away to tie the game at 1-all. The Jaguars regained the edge in the third, building their own five-point lead midway through the set before Kaity Smith put it away with an ace followed by her cross-court kill.
Neither team lead by more than three points in the fourth before Noble's blast sent to game to a fifth set. There, after a 4-all tie, the Crusaders pulled away to advance to Wednesday's semifinal against Notre Dame Academy. The Pandas won the late quarterfinal in straight sets over Highlands.
Kaiser said her team's resiliency and the ability to keep making runs was no surprise, chalking it up to the way the Crusaders practice.
"We play a lot of 10-point games in practice, so that's what we were preaching during timeouts — just play a 10-point game. It makes you look at the smaller picture," Kaiser said.
Wednesday's semifinal is a rematch for St. Henry and Notre Dame, having played on Oct. 10 with the Pandas taking the win in three close sets. Game time is at 7:30 p.m., back at Ryle. Between them, the teams have owned the Region 9 title for the past decade.
NOTRE DAME ROLLS PAST HIGHLANDS — The Pandas made short work of Highlands, 25-11, 25-6, 25-7, Tuesday night in their quest for a third-straight regional title, advancing to Wednesday's semifinals.
Notre Dame (24-7) was led by sophomore outside hitter Morgan Hentz's 13 kills while junior Alicia Von Handorf served up six aces as the Pandas strung together runs of at least eight points in each set against the Bluebirds (13-23).
The win gives Notre Dame its 14th in their last 18 matches in a tough schedule that included state and national powers, which bodes well for another deep run in the state tournament, said coach Andrea Lanham.
"I think we have a good opportunity to go deep,” Lanham said. “We're playing well. We just need to stay focused and play hard.”
The next step is Wednesday's semifinal against St. Henry, which has been a big regional rival.
"It's definitely going to be a test. St. Henry always plays well against us," said Lanham. "They're scrappy. They get to a lot of balls and don't let plays just die. They've got a lot of heart, so we'll have to play well to advance."
SCOTT ROLLS PAST AUGUSTA – Sophomore outside hitter Jessica Tapp rolled up nine kills as Scott (26-12) defeated Augusta (22-12), 25-10, 25-11, 25-7 in a Region 10 quarterfinal at Montgomery County.
Eighth-grade outside hitter Kelly Franxman served for eight aces, and junior setter Jenna Trimpe dished for 23 assists in the Eagles’ win.
Scott will play host Montgomery County in a regional semifinal at 6:45 p.m.