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Marquette senior Lindsay Gerding spikes the ball past Midland defender Sydney Foster during the Lady Crusaders’ 25-12, 19-25, 25-23 victory Thursday in a Tri-County Conference semifinal in DePue. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
Marquette’s Emily Durdan (No. 9) and Angela Evola set up a block against Midland’s R.J. Judd during the Lady Crusaders’ 25-12, 19-25, 25-23 victory Thursday in the Tri-County Conference Tournament semifinals. NewsTribune photo/Amanda Whitlock
DePUE — Down five points to Midland late in the third set Thursday night, Marquette volleyball coach Mindy McConnaughhay called a timeout.
“I said, ‘Don’t quit. Don’t quit. You’re better than this.’” McConnaughhay said. “That was the biggest thing, not to give up and to stay positive because you can see it when their heads start going down, they kind of give up. I said, ‘No matter what happens, come together, talk to one another, say what you’re seeing, anything. Just get yourselves going,’ and luckily they did.”
The Lady Crusaders came out of the timeout and slowly chipped away until Mackenzie Killelea stepped to the service line.
The senior setter rattled off five consecutive points to spark No. 3-seeded Marquette to a 25-12, 19-25, 25-23 upset victory over the No. 2-seeded Timberwovles in the Tri-County Conference Tournament semifinals.
“Killelea got hot at the right time,” McConnaughhay said about the setter’s run that gave Marquette a 22-21 lead. “I had been waiting all night for her to come out. She had one or two here and there, but I was sitting there saying in my head, ‘Get hot Killelea. Get hot right now. This is the time to get hot,’ and she did.” After Killelea’s run, the set was tied at 22-22 and 23-23 before Marquette senior Mikaela English put down back-to-back kills to seal the win for the Lady Crusaders (16-6), who advance to play No. 1-seeded Woodland in the championship match at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“They told me to go line, so I just went line. It was exciting,” English said about getting the final two kills.
English’s kills gave the Lady Cru a dramatic victory in a match that appeared destined to be a quick two-game sweep.
Marquette dominated the first set from the outset, grabbing a 5-0 lead and building it to 13-1.
“I think a lot of it was the first game we caught Midand off guard,” McConnaughhay said. “We served really aggressively and got them back on their heels. Midland’s a great team, and I think in Game 2, they finally woke up and got more into the game. It just seemed like we were a little too relaxed after the first game. I think we thought we were going to blow them out again.”
The second set was tight early before a four-point service run by Amber Bennington gave Midland the lead for good at 15-11.
“Game 2 no one was ready to hit,” McConnaughhay said. “It seemed like we tipped a lot more and I kept telling them, ‘You’re not going to get points tipping. This is a great defensive team, you have to swing.’ We definitely weren’t where we needed to be in Game 2.”
The third set also was tight before a five-point run by Ashley Kyle gave MIdland a 12-7 lead. The Timberwolves maintained a lead until Killelea’s big run.
“Their (best) hitter (Anna Crank) was out so we said, ‘Let’s push when we can because they had their shorter hitters,’” said English, who finished with 17 digs and five kills. “The momentum really got us going.”
The Lady Crusaders hope to carry the momentum into their fifth consecutive TCC tournament final.
Marquette, which finished second in the tournament last season, lost to Woodland 25-17, 25-18 on Sept. 6 in Ottawa.
“Last time we definitely were not ready for them,” McConnaughhay said. “They tipped us to death and we didn’t adjust. We were lazy on defense. Then we missed a lot of serves. They capitalized on our mistakes and our laziness last time, but I think we’re a better team now than we were last time. I think we’re a stronger team mentally and physically than last time, so I hope we can come out and prove that.”
Consolation semifinals No. 5-seeded Peoria Christian topped No. 7-seeded Henry 25-12, 25-20 in the first consolation semifinal.
Amber Kereta had a team-high six kills for the Lady Mallards, while Kimber Schrowang added a team-leading 13 digs.
The Lady Chargers advanced to the consolation championship to face No. 6-seeded Roanoke-Benson, which beat Hall 26-24, 25-20 in the second consolation semifinal Thursday.
Vanessa Olivares led the Lady Red Devils with eight assists and five kills. Cherokee Gillispie added five kills and a block for Hall (5-23).
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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