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Fieldcrest’s Tessa Holland (left), Kaitlyn Petersen (No, 12) and Courtney Moritz reach for the ball during Tuesday’s Class 2A El Paso-Gridley Sectional semifinal against Mt. Assisi. The Lady Knights were victorious 25-16, 23-25, 25-14 to advance to Thursday’s final against Watseka. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
EL PASO — The Fieldcrest volleyball team forgot about it.
After the Lady Knights scored the final six points to take the opening set over Mt. Assisi in Tuesday’s Class 2A El Paso-Gridley Sectional semifinal, Fieldcrest struggled and made uncharacteristic errors to drop the second set.
However, instead of letting it linger and permeate into the decisive third game, the Lady Knights simply moved on.
Fieldcrest scored seven of the first nine points in a dominant third set and rode the hot start to a 25-16, 23-25, 25-14 victory.
“You have to just let go of your mistakes,” Fieldcrest senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Petersen said of the second-set woes. “You can’t let it affect you because if you do it will keep you down the whole entire game.”
With the win, Fieldcrest (31-4) advances to the sectional championship at 7 p.m. Thursday where it will play Watseka, which downed Seneca 25-22, 27-25 in Tuesday’s second semifinal.
Since the Fieldcrest consolidation began in 1992, the volleyball program has never won a sectional title, no female program at the school has ever claimed a sectional and Fieldcrest has only won one sectional in school history, that coming from the 2011-12 boys basketball team.
“It is so exciting because we haven’t won a regional in 18 years,” Petersen said. “We are really all working very well together this season and none of us are ready for the season to be over yet.”
The Lady Knights showed it in the third set.
After the teams split the first two sets, Fieldcrest dominated Mt. Assisi (19-19) from the start of the decisive game.
Lady Knights senior Haley Ruestman began the third set with back-to-back kills and slammed home a third one following a Mt. Assisi tip.
A Fieldcrest error made it 3-2 before the Lady Knights went on a 4-0 run to take a 7-2 lead, which caused Mt. Assisi coach Karen Van Assen to call a timeout.
A service error by Fieldcrest junior Tessa Holland ended the rally, but the Lady Knights never let Mt. Assisi come any closer than four points as Fieldcrest pushed the lead to 11-4, 19-9 and 21-14 before the Lady Knights scored the final four points to close out the dominate third set.
“We were doing things that second set that were unusual for us,” Fieldcrest coach Cathy Sanders said. “We were letting balls drop, some of the moving things went wrong and we missed a few serves. All of that just kind of added up, but I knew if we could let that go and start fresh the third set that we’d be OK.”
The Lady Knights rolled in the third set behind four kills from sophomore middle hitter Hannah Peterson, three kills from Ruestman and two kills from Petersen.
“We were all nervous because we didn’t want to lose, but the third game we pulled it together,” Petersen said. “We talked a little more and worked together better.”
After a back-and-forth first set, Fieldcrest went on a 3-0 run to take a 19-15 lead. Following a Mt. Assisi point, the Lady Knights closed the game on a 6-0 rally.
In the second set, Fieldcrest overcame an early deficit to set up a back-and-forth set that saw nine lead changes.
Tied at 21-21, the Lady Eagles finally took control with a 3-0 surge. The Lady Knights pulled to 24-23, but a service error gave Mt. Assisi the set to force the third game.
“Coach just told us to relax and play our game (after the second set),” Petersen said. “She knew that we could do a lot better than we did, and we really pulled it together in the third game.”
Petersen finished with a game-high 14 points and 11 kills, while Ruestman put down eight kills. Senior setter Gracie Wiesenhofer dished out 18 assists and junior setter Courtney Moritz 16 assists.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.
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