FARMER CITY, Ill. -- After settling for sixth place in the Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament, Blue Ridge coach Evan Miles said his team would need to regroup with a strong practice Monday.
"I thought we had a great practice yesterday," Miles said Tuesday. "I thought we addressed a lot of things. We were very focused and sharp."
Blue Ridge, the No. 2 seed in a regional they are hosting, took that focus and sharp play into Tuesday's quarterfinal match against No. 7 Decatur Christian. The Lady Knights took a 7-1 lead in the first game and finished the second one on a 14-1 run en route to the match victory.
"I thought we finished strong," Miles said. "It's kind of hard with the competitive nature going on there to really get into it. The crowd was kind of stale, but there's no excuse. There's things we need to work on -- fewer errors for us -- down the stretch. But overall, it's a win, and we're in the direction we want to be. To win 22 is always positive. I think we'll come back with a better game tomorrow."
After the Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the first game, Blue Ridge gathered seven consecutive points to take a lead it would not surrender. After a Kaitlyn Zelhart spike tied the game at 1-1, Jordan Wheeler (pictured above in pink bandana) gave the Lady Knights four of her team's six points via serve.
Wheeler finished the match with two aces and six service points.
"Jordan's very good [at serving]," Miles said. "She's kind of high risk, high reward, so I expect that out of her. When she gets into a rhythm, barring a timeout and then a re-serving, she's pretty consistent."
After Decatur Christian cut the deficit in the first game to 9-6, Sara Klemm gave Blue Ridge the side-out point with a service error. Then the Lady Knights took the next three points, with Jessica Schrock giving the Lady Knights a 12-6 lead via serve.
After three straight points from the Warriors that cut their deficit to 13-9, Blue Ridge went on a 5-0 run, capped off by three consecutive serves by Amber Blazek.
Blazek (pictured above) finished the match with two aces.
Kaitlyn Zelhart stopped Decatur Christian's ensuing 5-0 run with a spike that hit the net and went over it for the point. After an Emily Zelhart serve that made the score 24-15 in favor of the Lady Knights, Kaitlyn Zelhart finished off the first game with a block to give her team the 25th point.
In the second game, Emily Zelhart (pictured below) gave Blue Ridge an early 3-1 lead with two consecutive serves that the Warriors could not return. However, Decatur Christian came right back with three straight points and would take a 12-11 lead with a Meredith Artime serve that Chandler Morrow could not return.
The Lady Knights responded by scoring the next 11 points, beginning with an Artime serving error that tied the game at 12-12. Blazek gave Blue Ridge a 13-12 lead with a hit that was not returned by the Warriors.
Chandler Morrow increased the Lady Knights lead to 15-12 via serve. Morrow (pictured below) finished the match with 10 service points and one ace.
"Chandler's been developing and getting very consistent down the stretch with her serves. That's always good with her. She does have a lot of movement with her ball, [because of] which she's not going to get a lot of aces a lot of times, but she does a good job of yo-yoing [the ball] deep and short, back and forth and side to side."
Blazek gave Blue Ridge its 21st point with a diving, one-handed hit that went over the net on the left side and hit the floor. With the score 24-14 in favor of the Lady Knights, Kaitlyn Zelhart was at the net for a hit that clinched the match for her team.
Kaitlyn Zelhart (pictured below) finished the match with nine kills, eight digs and one block. Emily Zelhart was credited with 12 assists and seven service points.
"I thought we did a good job of not forcing the issue and making different sets and different hitter options rather than being one-dimensional," Miles said.
With the win, Blue Ridge increases its record to 22-7. The Lady Knights will square off against No. 3-seeded DeLand-Weldon in the Farmer City Blue Ridge Regional semifinals on Wednesday.
The Lady Eagles beat No. 6 Sangamon Valley 25-18, 25-14 in the quarterfinals. In DeLand-Weldon's previous meeting with Blue Ridge, which occurred in September, the Lady Knights won in DeLand 25-17, 25-23.
Wednesday's match between Blue Ridge and the Eagles will follow the one between No. 1 Mount Pulaski and No. 4 Decatur Lutheran, which is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.