Sure enough, Blue Ridge pulled off another tight victory against St. Thomas More, beating the Sabers 21-25, 25-16, 25-21.
"As a coach, you don’t want to see them start off down in a hole like [we did in] the first set every time," Blue Ridge coach Evan Miles said. "That is something we need to work on come regional time, but that’s what they’ve done all season. That’s what you come to expect, and they did a great job tonight."
In the first game, the Sabers started off with a 6-1 lead, the sixth point occurring when Shannon Siuts' serve was hit backwards by Chandler Morrow.
Kaitlyn Zelhart had a couple of hitting errors as well in the 6-1 run.
"There were way too many unforced errors early on," Miles said. "I kind of expected that after Homecoming, I think we rallied pretty good and had good energy at times. The biggest thing is just playing every point to 25 and feeling good about yourself after the match is done."
Blue Ridge rallied to gain leads of 12-11, 13-12 and 14-13 in the first game. The 14th point was scored with Kaitlyn Zelhart and Amber Blazek (pictured above) at the net for a block.
However, St. Thomas More scored six unanswered points from there to take a 19-14 lead, an advantage the Sabers would not surrender.
The first point of the second game was scored by Blue Ridge when Kaitlyn Zelhart (pictured below) blocked two straight shots by St. Thomas More. After a back-and-forth sequence in which the Sabers took leads of 3-2, 5-3 and 6-5, the Lady Knights took a lead of 10-9 with a Kaitlyn Zelhart tap that was not returned.
Blue Ridge never trailed the second game from there, and built its lead to 16-11 with a Kaitlyn Zelhart block.
After St. Thomas More got a side-out point to make the score 20-15 in favor of Blue Ridge, the Lady Knights scored five of the next six points to clinch the second game, including two on Jordan Wheeler serves.
The 25th point was scored by Wheeler (pictured below) after Kaitlyn Zelhart made a one-handed dig to save the ball from hitting the floor.
It was a great play that I expect out of our senior leadership," Miles said. "They’re passionate. They’re very competitive like me, so they want to win."
In the third game, the Lady Knights came out firing, scoring the first point with a Emily Zelhart serve from which Brooke Plotner ducked, incorrectly thinking the ball would go out of bounds.
Blue Ridge built a lead of 6-2 with three points scored by Kaitlyn Zelhart. Then St. Thomas More rallied back, tying the third game at 16-16.
From there, the Lady Knights scored eight unanswered points to take a 24-16. After a hitting error by the Sabers gave Blue Ridge the go-ahead 17th point, the Lady Knights got two points via Wheeler serves.
Then Wheeler gave St. Thomas More the side-out point end the streak. The Sabers scored four consecutive points from there to make the score 24-21.
Miles, however, said he did not panic as a result of the rally.
"We’ve been in way more pressure situations," Miles said. "They’ve been through it before, and we’ve had a lot of close, three-set matches."
Sure enough, Kaitlyn Zelhart clinched the match with a hit that resulted in a hitting error by Ally Heffernan. With that point, Blue Ridge survived another close match.
Kaitlyn Zelhart finished the match with 11 kills, three blocks and 13 digs. Emily Zelhart (pictured above) led the Lady Knights in assists with 17.
Wheeler recorded 13 service points, nine digs and three aces. Gabby Pearl had six kills.
Meanwhile, the Lady Knights' junior varsity team lost to St. Thomas More 25-13, 25-21.
With the win, Blue Ridge's varsity team improves its record to 18-3. The Lady Knights will be in Heyworth for a pivotal Heart of Illinois Conference showdown with the Lady Hornets on Thursday.
The Lady Hornets currently lead the HOIC with a 21-1 overall record and a 9-0 record in the conference. In their previous meeting, Heyworth beat Blue Ridge 26-24, 25-23 in the championship match of the Clinton Tournament.