FARMINGTON — There were no easy points for St. Teresa.
But after losing in the first set at the Class 2A Farmington Super-sectional, the Bulldogs bounced back to win the next two to claim a 19-25, 25-19, 25-14 win and advance to the state tournament for the second straight year.
The Bulldogs will face Rockford Lutheran (35-5) at the Class 2A state semifinals at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 15.
In a back-and-forth first set, both teams built a lead only to see it eaten away. Ultimately, Orion claimed the set 25-19.
"I think we may have underestimated them a little bit and that was our trouble in the beginning,” St. Teresa setter Lexie Huck said. “We started off cold but found some momentum in that second and third set.”
The Bulldogs hadn’t lost a set in the playoffs up to that point and hadn’t experienced the fight Orion gave them in a while.
“(Orion) really came out strong and I think we have been coming out very intimidating for most teams and today we got in a funk in the first set. But we huddled up in the second set and we came out strong like we usually play,” Bulldogs senior Cami Lobb said.
Behind the serve of senior Abby Robinson, St. Teresa went on an eight-point run to take a 14-8 lead in the second set.
“I feel like it changed the momentum of the game. We were in that rut and getting that run in the second set boosted us up and got us to play some more,” Robinson said.
After the first set, it would have been easy to let the game slip away. Instead, the Bulldogs claimed the second set 25-19.
“I think it is putting some trust in your teammates,” Huck said. “We know we are good and we know our teammates are good and it’s a matter of finding some momentum there.”
The third set started even with a 3-3 tie before senior Cami Lobb served to put the Bulldogs up 6-3. Lobb returned to serve with the Bulldogs up 18-9 and rattled off six-points to give the Bulldogs a commanding lead, 24-9. The final point came moments later and St. Teresa won the third set 25-14.
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“I was thinking, ‘Just get it in the court,’ and hopefully we can get it into our system and get the point back. I was really nervous,” Lobb said. “I’m super excited to go back to state. As a senior, I’m just happy to play with these girls because after this year we are all going to college where some of us are playing ball and some of us aren’t.
“It is great to have one last memory with all of them.”
This is the fourth trip to the state tournament for the Bulldogs. The team finished in third-place at last year’s Class 1A tournament and fourth in the 2010 and 2011 Class 2A tournaments.
St. Teresa entered Friday's match on a run of defeating state-ranked teams, according to MaxPreps.com, in its buildup to the playoffs and in playoff play. The Bulldogs have knocked off No. 2-ranked Breese Mater Dei (Oct. 26), No. 6-ranked Quincy Notre Dame (Oct. 26 and Nov. 4), No. 7-ranked Sacred Heart-Griffin (Oct. 31) and No. 9-ranked Downs Tri-Valley (Nov. 6) over the past two weeks. They added the No. 8-ranked Chargers Friday.
“Orion was a very disciplined volleyball team. They made it hard for us to score in the first set and they served us out of system in that first set,” St. Teresa coach Brad Dalton said. “We were a little tight. They brought half the town with them (in the stands) and they played well.”
Libero Grace Buxton led the team with 21 digs and Robinson added 18.
“Grace played very well and she has been playing well all season long,” Dalton said. “She has been consistent and she never loses her fight.”
Offensively, Huck led the Bulldogs with 10 kills followed by Valarie Nutakor and Robinson with eight kills. Huck assisted on 18 points and Lobb on 17.