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La Salle-Peru’s junior middle hitter Ellie Senica (right) lifts the ball in Tuesday’s Class 3A Princeton Sectional semifinal match against Stelring. The Lady Cavs won 25-20, 25-16 to advance to the finals at 7 p.m. Thursday against Sycamore. NewsTribune photo/Chris Yucus
PRINCETON — After playing two tough three-set matches last week in the Class 3A Streator Regional, La Salle-Peru junior Ellie Senica didn’t mind two quick sets Tuesday.
“That was so nice,” Senica said after the Lady Cavaliers’ 25-20, 25-16 victory over Sterling in a Princeton Sectional semifinal. “It’s a little bit of a confidence booster.” L-P coach Mark Haberkorn enjoyed the two-set match as well after the Lady Cavs needed three to beat Mendota and Morris last week.
“Oh absolutely,” Haberkorn said when asked if it was nice to play two sets. “I didn’t think we were going to play a match in two the way last Tuesday and Thursday went.
“This group of girls has just been very focused. They don’t panic. The chemistry is just great for this team. Everything seems to be clicking.”
L-P (32-3) advances to the sectional final against Sycamore at 7 p.m. Thursday. Sycamore beat Dunlap 25-17, 25-16 in Tuesday’s second semifinal.
The Lady Cavs beat Sycamore (20-20) 25-13, 25-19 on Sept. 5 at L-P.
“We played Sycamore early in the year,” Haberkorn said. “We got them on Thursday night after they were at Rocky (Rock Island), so they were road weary. I think they’ll be very competitive.”
The Lady Cavs advanced by beating Sterling for the third time this season. L-P needed three sets to beat Sterling in each of the two regular season matches the teams played, but not Tuesday as L-P pulled out a tight first set before jumping out to an early lead in the second.
“We just stayed really aggressive and didn’t let down,” Senica said about how L-P won in two sets in the third meeting.
In the first set, neither team led by more than three points until L-P pulled away late.
The set was tied seven times before L-P took the lead for good at 17-16 on a Sterling net violation.
The Lady Cavs pushed their lead to four points at 21-17 on a Senica tip and a Sterling error before eventually closing out the set on a Taylor Gibson kill.
In the second set, Katie Olson served the Lady Cavs to an early 5-0. The run included a kill by Gibson, a kill by Rachel Hunt, an ace, a Sterling net violation and a Sterling error.
“We had some blocks and they had some serve-receive errors, so that helped,” Senica said about the early lead.
The Lady Cavs never led by less than four the rest of the way and led by as many as 10 at 17-7.
“I was very happy with the effort,” Haberkorn said. “At this time of the year, you have to be playing very consistent, and we played very consistent and solid volleyball. We made very few mistakes and everybody seems to be picking everybody up.
“Right now, we’re communicating, we’re running an efficient offense and our defense is very stingy.”
The Lady Cavalier offense was balanced once again as Gibson, Senica and Cierra Johnson had six kills each, while Hunt contributed four and Shana Puetz added two.
Olson dished out 23 assists to go along with a team-best 12 points.
“Our hitting is not just one person. That’s one thing that makes us so difficult to defend,” Haberkorn said. “Katie Olson moves the ball around and finds the best situation and the hot hitter. Our passing sets it up. I was pleased with our passing. It was a great effort.”
Abby Turczyn led the defense with 11 digs, while Puetz added 10.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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