MAROA -- It's the small things.
After having a tighter-than-desired 25-22 first set in its 2A regional final match with St. Teresa Thursday, Maroa-Forsyth setter Carly Mason made a small change.
"We started slow and (St. Teresa) played well in the first set," Maroa-Forsyth coach Sarah Mason said. "But then Carly made an adjustment and started setting to the outsides. That's when Sydney White and Jenessa Wenskunas took over."
Maroa (34-3) took control of the second set 25-12, to win the school's fourth regional in five years.
White led the team with 10 kills, followed directly by Wenskunas with nine.
Carly Mason's expert setting landed her 26 assists.
Heading into the match with St. Teresa, Sarah Mason was a little apprehensive about the match-up.
"St. Teresa always plays us well. They worry me every time we play them," she said. "They are a team that plays really well and never gives up."
St. Teresa coach Rhonda Glidewell highlighted the play of her three seniors in reaching the regional finals' match.
"Maddie Snow, Meredith Brinkoetter, and Allison Kimmons, I can't ask for three more amazing young women," she said. "They are great role models and kept our team members driven all season."
Windsor makes it six in a row
ST. ELMO – Another year, another regional championship for the Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg volleyball team.
The Hatchets (30-6) cruised to a 25-14, 25-13 two-set win over St. Anthony for their sixth consecutive regional plaque.
But after a rash of injuries this season, this title felt a little different.
“We had such turmoil with all the injuries this year, you just never know what to expect,” W/SS coach Ronda Schlechte said. “You don't want to take for granted that you're going to win at any particular time.”
Mackenzi Tabbert set the tone on offense with 20 assists, spreading the ball around to the likes of Megan Schlechte (11 kills), Maria Gentry (3 kills) and Kasey Bean (seven kills).
“She's connected really well with the hitters the last couple of nights,” Schlechte said. “I feel like everyone has played their best the last couple of nights.”
Defensively, the Hatchets dominated. Six different players recorded at least three digs, with Mikayla Haddock leading the way with six digs.
Windsor advances to the Class 1A Stewardson-Strasburg sectional semifinal against Hutsonville at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
Mount Zion pushed to the brink by Rochester
ROCHESTER -- It took three nail-biting sets for Mount Zion (33-4) to claim the 3A regional championship over Rochester 20-25, 25-22, 25-20.
"This was one of the most intense matches I've coached in 17 years," Mount Zion coach Jay McAtee said. "In the first game, everything was going right for Rochester."
Rochester's height was something the Braves had trouble adjusting to.
"They have height on the outside and they were blocking us very well," McAtee said. "Our two middles had a great offensive game because they were focusing on our excellent outside hitters."
Kaitlyn Lillpop led Mount Zion with 11 kills, followed by Karlee McAtee's eight and Dayna Kennedy's seven.
"To my girls' credit, they kept grinding and got their rhythm," coach McAtee said. "The offense started to click and speed up. We were running everything out of the middle."
Mount Zion will play Taylorville Monday in the sectional semifinal match in Effingham.
Defense key to Pana regional title
SHELBYVILLE -- For Pana coach Greg Cothern, it was blocks and digs that propelled Pana passed Teutopolis 26-24, 25-16 in the 2A Shelbyville Regional championship.
"Tonight was a very defensively strong night for our team," he said. "We had two players that were in double digits in the back row with digs."
Those two players were senior Shayna Stremming and junior Kaylee Holland who had 14 and 11 digs respectively.
Stremming also led the team with nine kills.
"The great back row play allowed us to feed our hitter more effectively," Cothern said.
Senior Lily Anderson also added key blocks for the Panthers.
"One of the most prominent players tonight defensively was Lily who had three big blocks for us and was instrumental in curtailing the T-Town hitters," Cothern said.
The victory gives Pana its third consecutive regional title.
Okaw Valley wins first ever regional title
BETHANY -- It's been quite the year for Okaw Valley coach Sarah McDowell.
In her first year coaching varsity, McDowell has guided the Timberwolves to the school's first ever Class 1A regional title after topping Heritage 25-22, 25-23.
"This feels pretty good, it is such a big change in a single season for our program," she said.
Earlier in the season, Okaw Valley (15-13) let Heritage come back to win in three sets.
McDowell's team wasn't going to let that happen this time.
"The key to the game tonight and our mantra is playing the game point-by-point and never let Heritage get too far ahead," she said. "We weren't going to let them back into the game this time."
Sophomore Kate Jeffers led Okaw Valley's offense with 10 kills and Sadie Zimmerman recorded 10 assists.
The Timberwolves will play Louisville North Clay Monday in the sectional semifinal match in Strasburg.
Newton tops Fairfield
FAIRFIELD -- Fairfield pushed Newton to the limit in the first set of its 2A regional final match, but the Eagles pulled it out 28-26.
Newton kept the momentum moving in the second set, winning 25-17 to grab the regional title.
"We came out a little slow in set one and Fairfield had some momentum coming at us," Newton coach Jill Kistner said.
Regional title game jitters might have had something to do with it as well.
"We played better during the second set when the hype and nerves from being in the regional championship died down a little," Kistner said.
The Eagles were led by Abby Frohning's 16 kills.
"Abby came through with some big kills and Kelsi Geltz served really well," Kistner said.
This is Newton's fourth consecutive regional title and it will face familiar foe in Pana in the sectionals.
"This is the third year in a row we will play Pana in the first round of sectionals," Kistner said. "We are getting used to playing them this early."
Mattoon tops Lincoln in regional final
MATTOON -- Morgan Otto’s stat line stuck out. The junior middle blocker had one kill and two digs. It was at the net where Otto caught everyone’s attention.
Otto finished the match with five blocks, which was indicative of Mattoon’s (27-10) defensive performance as a whole in the Class 3A regional championship match against Lincoln.
Mattoon finished with nine blocks total and the Green Wave’s defense slowed Lincoln down at every turn as Mattoon cruised to a 25-11, 25-21 sweep on Thursday to win the regional title.
“Morgan had the match of her life tonight. Not just Morgan, but the entire defense. This was the best defensive match we’ve played all season,” Mattoon coach Mark Jackley said. “We got in their ears yesterday in practice about blocking the outside. That’s (Lincoln’s) thing and we did a great job. If they did get the ball through the block, we had a back row player right there ready to dig the ball up.
“It’s fun when you can generate a lot of offense and keep your opponent on their heels.”
Clay City falls in regional final
OBLONG -- Clay City led early, but it wasn't enough.
Louisville North Clay clawed back into the match, to win the Class 1A Oblong Regional 25-23, 20-25, 25-7.
For Clay City coach Jamie Harvel, the lose can be attributed to mental toughness.
"We fell apart mentally. North Clay played their very best and we did not," he said. "This is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one and we just didn't have the mental tonight.
"But these girls have nothing to be ashamed of. They had yet another fantastic season."
Hilltoppers are regional champs
PAWNEE -- Led by Skylar Hayes' 13 kills, Mount Pulaski defeated Edinburg in the Class 1A Pawnee Regional final 25-21, 25-13.
"Edinburg was a very scrappy team and very smart," Mount Pulaski coach Donna Dulle said. "We had to make a lot of adjustments but our players stayed focused."
Abigail Fitzpatrick added eight kills for the Hilltoppers and Isabella Wade had 21 assists.
Savanah Moore and Fitzpatrick added 15 and 13 digs respectively.
The Hilltoppers last captured the 1A regional title back in 2015.