The Burlington Central girls volleyball team appeared in good shape leading 17-14 in the first game Tuesday against Sycamore.
But the Spartans went on a 9-1 run to get momentum and then rode that momentum to a 25-23, 25-21 victory in the Class 3A Hampshire regional semifinals.
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"That was really was a big turning point in the match," Central coach Marv Leavitt said. "We had a few problems with stopping runs throughout the year."
No. 3 seed Sycamore (25-13) will play top seed Kaneland (22-12), which beat St. Edward 25-17, 25-18 in the first semifinal, at 6 p.m. Thursday in the regional championship match.
The opening game between Central and Sycamore went back-and-forth until the second-seeded Rockets (25-11) took a 17-14 lead after a Sycamore service error. But 2 kills from the Spartans' Hannah Knox and 4 Central errors gave the Spartans a 20-17 lead. Central's Lexie Bouza and Lauren Peltonen combined for a block to stop the 6-0 run. Kills from Emily Young and Knox and a net violation on the Rockets made it 23-18 Sycamore.
The Rockets saved one game point on a kill from Lauren Wiltsie to get within 1, 24-23, but a Central service error gave the Spartans the opening-game win.
"Everybody was playing defense and the was the key," Spartans coach Debbie Klock said.
Sycamore led by as many as 6, 9-3 and 13-7, early in the second game and led 15-10 before the Rockets went on a 5-0 run. Two kills from Bouza, an ace from Allie O'Reilly, a Sycamore hitting error and a Lauren Wiltsie kill tied the game at 15-15.
A Brittany Huber kill gave Sycamore a 21-17 lead and the Rockets couldn't get any closer than two the rest of the game.
Knox led the Spartans with 8 kills, Huber and Ratasha Garbes each added five kills.
Junior Jenna Schudel led the Rockets with 8 kills. Bouza and Wiltsie each had 6. O'Reilly finished with 25 digs.
In the opening semifinal, No. 5 St. Edward (15-18) got off to a bad start, falling behind 13-3. The Green Wave rallied to get within five, 20-15, after consecutive errors from the Knights. St. Edward saved two game points before a service error allowed Kaneland to win Game 1.
"It was nice in the first game to see them start to fight back," St. Edward coach Jaime Dovichi said. "I think it would have been easy for an average team to just slow down and realize they were overmatched. But a couple breaks went our way and they fought back a little bit."
The Green Wave led as late as 14-13 in the second game. But Kaneland scored 12 of the final 16 points. Kills from Keri Groen and Lyndi Scholl on the final 2 points gave the Knights their first regional match victory in at least four seasons, according to Kaneland coach Todd Weimer.
"We were determined. We were focused. We were relaxed," Weimer said. "We wanted to come out and play the best we could. I think the girls did a nice job of that."
Groen and Ellie Dunn each had 7 kills for the Knights. Scholl added 5. Ashley Prost had 16 assists and 5 digs. Shayna Tucek led Kaneland with 17 digs.
Rena Ranallo and Shannon Igielski each had 4 kills to lead St. Edward. Allison Kruk finished with 10 digs.