The tough field of the Class 2A Hall Regional was whittled down to two on Tuesday.
In Tuesday’s regional semifinals, top-seeded Fieldcrest eliminated No. 5 St. Bede 25-11, 25-16, while No. 3-seeded Putnam County fell to No. 2 El-Paso Gridley 25-15, 25-18 to set up a rematch of last year’s regional final between the Lady Knights (29-4-1) and EPG (17-10), which won last season’s regional championship in three sets.
“It’s really cool to be back in the finals. We were here last year and we unfortunately didn’t win,” Fieldcrest junior middle hitter Tessa Holland said. “This year, I think we’re going to remember that, play even harder and we’re going to be ready.”
The regional championship is 6 p.m. Thursday at Hall.
Fieldcrest def. St. Bede 25-11, 25-16
The Lady Knights never trailed in either set as they paced St. Bede to set up the rematch with EPG.
In the first set, Fieldcrest jumped to a 6-1 lead and never let the Lady Bruins within six thereafter.
Fieldcrest coach Cathy Sanders said the large lead had a lot to do with the team’s thunderous kills and defense.
“I felt like we picked up our defense, even from the last time we played. We were moving to the ball and reacting,” Sanders said. “I was happy with how we worked on it tonight. We got a lot to work on though for Thursday, no matter who we play."
The second set broke down in similar fashion as Fieldcrest jumped ahead with a 6-2 lead, built it to 9-3 and never let St. Bede close the gap more than six, yet again.
After the No. 5-seeded Lady Bruins upset No. 4 Eureka in Monday’s quarterfinal, St. Bede coach Dawn Williams was happy her team advanced to the semifinals, but her team wasn’t ready for a team of the Lady Knights’ caliber.
“They’ve lost what four games this season? You don’t have a season like that without being a good team,” Williams said. “Fieldcrest definitely dominated. We had a couple of good plays, but they blocked just about everything we put up there. They’re solid all the way around.
“I’m proud of my girls. They kept battling and they never gave up. Even at the end, we struggled but we were trying to still put it together and keep moving.”
With the loss, the Lady Bruins end the season with a 16-20 record.
“It’s going to be weird not coming to the gym,” Williams said. “We started back in June doing summer ball and everything. It’s been part of our family, part of our life. It’s sad to see the season end. “
El Paso-Gridley def. Putnam County 25-15, 25-18
The Lady Titans got a quick start against PC and never quit putting on the pressure.
Back-to-back Lady Panther miscues and a kill by EPG put the Lady Panthers behind 3-0 in the first set. PC cut the lead to 4-2 but were outscored 5-0 to trail 7-2.
“EPG had a great start to the game. They had a lot of nice swings,” PC coach Amy Kreiser said. “Their hitters did a nice job of finding our holes, and we just struggled to make our move and catch back up.”
When the Lady Titans were not hitting to score points, they were defending to keep PC from adding tallies.
Kreiser called a timeout with her team down 18-9, but the game continued the way it was going as EPG went on to take the first set.
“EPG played some great defense and had a lot of touches on our blocks,” Kreiser said. “They have some nice height to their team that we haven’t seen in a while. They just played very good defense and I think that really was the key to their game tonight. They were able to attack on us before we were able to get the ball up and attack them.”
After the second set was tied at 1-1, EPG scored the next three points and five out of six to take a 6-2 lead.
The Lady Panthers couldn’t change the tide as the Lady Titans continued to pound the ball in the middle of the court and defend PC’s scoring attempts.
“Our setter was moving the ball around (Tuesday), giving us a lot of options,” Lady Titans coach Penny Grusy said. “It started with the pass and we served fairly aggressive. We lost a couple through the second game but we played consistent tonight. I was very pleased with them.”
With the loss, PC ends the season with a 26-5-1 record.
“It was a great year for the girls,” Kreiser said. “I’m really proud of them and they met all my expectations and went way beyond them. It was an excellent year for Putnam County volleyball. I think they need to hold their heads high and be proud of the season they had.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.