JOHN CURTIS - Daily Union Sports Editor
SHELBYVILLE, IL. — Stew-Stras volleyball (28-12) blitzed New Athens on Friday morning at the Class A State Tournament semifinals, 25-12, 25-23, to advance to the Class A State Championship match on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
The Comets perservered through the long regular season and National Trail Conference season. Stew-Stras finished 2nd in the conference only to 2A St. Anthony, which went as far as the Elite Eight, but lost in their Super-Sectional match-up.
The Comets were still standing after winning their regional, winning their sectional and claiming their super-sectional title.
Stew-Stras played the second of two state semifinals on Friday morning and faced New Athens.
New Athens came in to the match at 28-9, after losing in their regional final last year. New Athens had only one senior on their squad this year, so they were an up-and-coming team that also persevered.
All that went south quickly for the Lady Jackets on Friday in the state semifinal.
New Athens was active early, but had two kills and two misses to leave a tied score at 2-2. Then Brittani Tabbert swung for the first Comet kill and a lead they would never surrender in game 2.
Tabbert Killed again for a 5-3 lead, but New Athens would tied it at 5-5. Stew-Stras then went on an 8-3 run. Sophomore Clara Kaufman hit a kill, then Kendall Knop had her first kill for an 8-5 lead.
Setter Baylee Quast had a kill, but then New Athens came back to within a point at 9-8.
Knop killed to give Kaufman the serve. She smoked an ace. Quast killed again and Morgan Stremming swung for a kill for the 13-8 Comet lead. A service error gave New Athens their only point during a Comet 9-1 run.
Knop heated up and smacked three kills in four points. Quast was serving and Tabbert swung for another kill to double-up the Jackets, 18-9.
New Athens scored three straight, but at 19-12, Becca Schlechte had back-to-back kills, followed by another Tabbert kill for a 10-point lead, 22-12.
New Athens had two misses, then on game point, Tabbert swung for the kill, 25-12.
With one win in their pocket, the Comets had to battle against a Jacket team that did not want to go easy.
Game 2 started tit-for-tat. New Athens then scored four straight and forced a Stew-Stras time-out, down 7-4. Coach Ronda's Schlechte's time-out was perfect timing.
Out of the pause, the Comets went on another 9-1 run, that included an 8-point service run for Schlechte. Tabbert had consecutive kills, New Athens had two misses and Tabbert killed back-to-back again for a 10-8 Comet lead.
Quast killed again, before the Jackets scored two straight, 12-11. Tabbert served an ace and New Athens missed a shot, bringing a Jacket time-out at 15-11.
Knop and Quast killed for a 17-12 lead, then New Athens responded with a 7-2 run to knot the score at 19-19. Schlechte swung for a kill and Tabbert and Stremming blocked for a 21-19 lead.
New Athens tied the score again, 21-21, only to have Schlechte kill for another Comet lead, 22-21. The Jackets took their first lead since 8-7 on back-to-back kills, 23-22.
New Athens then shot themselves in the foot and the wound was fatal. They had a service error, 23-23. Schlechte then served out the match, as New Athens had back-to-back hitting errors for the match.
Senior Brittani Tabbert and junior Kendall Knop led at the net with match-high 9 kills, each. Tabbert also had a service ace. Knop had a near double-double, with her nine kills and match-high 10 digs.
Senior Baylee Quast dished a match-high 14 assists and a solo block, in addition to four kills. Freshman Becca Schlechte dished eight assists and got down for eight digs, besides her four kills.
Stew-Stras recorded 28 kills and five blocks, while New Athens had just 18 kills and two blocks. The Comets had 26 assists to their 28 kills, New Athens had just 14 assists.
New Athens had 31 digs to Stew-Stras' 30. New Athens had three aces and the Comets two.
Stew-Stras (28-12) plays the state championship match against returning state champs Rockford Keith Country Day (38-3) at 10:30 a.m.
State 1A Semifinal
Stew-Stras def. New Athens, 25-12, 25-23
Stew stats: Becca Schlechte 4 kills, 8 assists, 8 digs, 3 block assists; Morgan Stremming 1 kill, 1 dig, 3 block assists; Brittani Tabbert 9 kills, 2 assists, 1 ace, 6 digs, 1 block assist; Kendall Knop 9 kills, 10 digs; Clara Kaufman 1 kill, 1 ace, 1 assist, 1 block assist; Baylee Quast 4 kills, 14 assists, 2 digs, 1 solo block; Sarah Locke 1 assist, 3 digs. Team stats: 28 kills, 26 assists, 2 aces, 30 digs, 8 block assists, 1 solo block
New Athens stats: Lance 3 digs, 1 block assist; Dutkanych 2 kills, 1 ace, 1 assist, 3 digs; Crabtree 4 kills, 6 assists, 1 ace, 4 digs; Al-Bori 3 kills, 1 assist, 8 digs, 1 block assist; Marlow 5 kills, 1 ace, 6 digs, 1 block assist; White 4 kills, 4 digs, 1 block assist; Wahlig 6 assists, 2 digs; Park 1 dig