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Fieldcrest sophomore Tessa Holland (No. 7) hits the ball between El Paso-Gridley blockers Rebekah Ehresman (No. 4) and Anna Gauger during the Knights’ 25-22, 22-25, 27-25 loss in the Class 2A St. Bede Reigonal championship Thursday. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Fieldcrest senior Lindsey Gensler digs a kill attempt Thursday during the Knights’ 25-22, 22-25, 27-25 loss to El Paso-Gridley in the Class 2A St. Bede Regional final. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
The third time was not the charm for the Fieldcrest volleyball team.
After the Knights lost to El Paso-Gridley in two sets twice earlier this month, Fieldcrest was unable to change its luck in Thursday’s Class 2A St. Bede Regional championship.
After it lost the first set, Fieldcrest rallied to take the second and fought off two match points in the third but the top-seeded Knights could not overcome No. 2-seeded El Paso-Gridley as they fell 25-22, 22-25, 27-25.
“We knew they weren’t going to come in and roll over,” EPG coach Penny Grusy said. “The first time we played them they were not on at all, and in the (conference) tournament they played much better and I saw what they were capable of. I knew they had a winning record so I knew they were better than what we saw the first couple of times.”
EPG (20-10) — which advances to the Class 2A Seneca Sectional — beat Fieldcrest on its Senior Night Oct. 4 and then again in the quarterfinals at last week’s Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament.
“I have thought about that a lot: it’s hard to beat a good team a third time,” Fieldcrest coach Cathy Sanders said. “But in volleyball it doesn’t matter as much. It’s really just a matter of go out there and hope the right team shows up that night.”
Both teams showed up on Thursday.
EPG took control in the first set as it built a seven-point lead before Fieldcrest closed to 22-21 and 23-22.
However, a kill by EPG and a Fieldcrest lift gave the Titans the first set. In the second game, the Knights came out swinging as they used a 5-0 run to take an 8-5 lead.
Fieldcrest never trailed again as it slowly built a 23-16 cushion before EPG went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 23-22.
However, after a timeout, a kill by Fieldcrest’s Kaitlyn Petersen and an Alysa White block gave the Knights the second set.
Fieldcrest controlled the third set early as it built a 13-10 lead, but EPG came roaring back as it used a 9-2 rally to take a 19-15 lead.
The Titans maintained the advantage to 22-20 when a long EPG serve and a Petersen kill tied the match at 22-22.
Kills from EPG’s Jenna Souhrada and Rebekah Ehresman put the Titans at match point at 24-22 and caused Sanders to call a timeout.
However, EPG was called for reaching over the net and a Titans return attempt went into the net to tie the game at 24-24.
A tip from Ehresman gave EPG a 25-24 lead, but a Titan lift tied the match at 25-25.
A kill by EPG’s Code Schlipf found the back corner to give the Titans a 26-25 advantage, and a tip by Souhrada ended the match.
“(The third set) was just two teams wanting it,” Sanders said. “When it gets to that point in the third game, it’s nerve-wracking but exciting. They fought to the end, and of course you want to be on the winning side, but we’ve come a long way.” Ehresman had 27 digs and 20 kills for EPG, while Souhrada added 22 digs and 15 kills and Schlipf contributed 40 assists.
Gracie Weisenhofer had 23 assists, 14 digs and four aces for Fieldcrest, while Petersen and Tessa Holland each had 11 kills.
The loss ends the prep volleyball careers of Fieldcrest seniors Kristen DeMay, Lindsey Gensler, Melissa Coons and Calee Boedigheimer.
“They were my first group of freshman,” Sanders said of her seniors. “You could see how they grew, and tonight they wanted it. To see their reactions afterwards was heartbreaking because they did want it. They grew so much and bought into what I was teaching them and set a good example for the younger kids.”
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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