ARTHUR -- A matchup against Sangamon Valley exactly one week ago set up nicely for Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond.
Just days before the start of the Little Okaw Valley Conference Northwest Division tournament, the Knights got the exposure they needed for playing against Sangamon Valley and team-wide validation after they won.
ALAH repeated the result Tuesday, beating the Storm in three sets (again), this time for the division championship and to set up a match against Tri-County on Thursday for the conference crown.
"We were a lot more confident in ourselves than we were (then)," ALAH senior Kimberly Davis said. "We were a little worried about them the first time.
"Playing them last Tuesday gave us the confidence in knowing we could do it Saturday and everything, like we knew that since we beat them and they were one of the top seeds that we can do this. We know what we're doing."
The Knights cruised through the first two games of the tournament Saturday at their place, including a win against Argenta-Oreana which is one of three teams to beat ALAH (14-3, 2-1 LOVC) all season -- just another perk of the timely confidence boost the Knights got seven days ago.
Tuesday's championship wasn't easy, same as the one last week.
Then, the Knights rallied from one set down to win in three. This time, they secured the first game after jumping out to an 11-1 lead.
"Last week, beating them gave us a lot of confidence," ALAH junior Madison Brown said. "We just came out more confident, ran our offense more, the passes were there."
Sangamon Valley power hitter Aubrey Hunt showed up in the second set and finished the night with 13 kills.
Hunt helped the Storm (17-7, 2-1) tie up the sets, despite the relentless Knights' best efforts. Brown's serve helped ALAH rally from down 11-5 to a tighter 11-9, after falling behind 7-1 quickly. Then, the Knights battled from down 19-12 to tied the score at 21-all before running out of gas.
The Knights came back ready in the third set though.
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Each team started a set on serve and each took a big lead with it -- 11-1 Knights when they started in the first and 7-1 Storm when they had it in the second -- but not in the decisive third.
ALAH senior Abby Foreman's kill on the first point took the serve away from the Storm, and then the Knights jumped out to a 5-0 lead.
"We're lucky we fought hard at the beginning to get ourselves a cushion because in all the games we had a little dip in there," ALAH coach Emily Crossman said.
The "dip" came as the Storm tied the third set at 14-all.
But from that point on, ALAH's defense came to play and Sangamon Valley didn't have as much power behind its swings.
The Knights won 11 of the final 12 points to win the third set, 25-15.
They were led early by sophomore Taylor Powell, who finished with 10 kills, nine digs and five blocks, and led late by Foreman, who had 11 kills and put a number of key points into the ground during the third set.
Brown starred though. The versatile setter finished with six kills and 29 assists but, most importantly, a game-high seven blocks.
Whether Foreman or Powell was next to her, Brown was the one constant in the wall blocking Hunt all night.
"Practice this week, we worked a lot on defending their outside, so we were confident we'd be able to defend her," Brown said. "She changed up her shots (in the second set), we just weren't ready for that, but we adjusted to it."
The defense was good behind Brown -- Davis had 10 digs -- but the key for Crossman was always getting something on Hunt's swings.
"She put up a huge block for us," Crossman said of Brown. "That was one of our best defensive plays of the night."