Shannon Russell reports:
Lakota East and Lakota West clinched Division I district girls’ volleyball championships Saturday at Lebanon and punched their tickets to respective regional semifinals.
The Thunderhawks ended McAuley’s first winning season in five years in a 30-28, 18-25, 25-22, 25-18 thriller and clinched a place in Thursday’s 6 p.m. regional semifinal at Lebanon.
By ousting Troy 25-12, 25-14, 25-15 – and snapping the Trojans’ 11-match winning streak – Lakota West secured its place in Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. regional semifinal, also at Lebanon.
McAuley (17-8) didn’t make it easy for Lakota East (23-2) to clinch its second district title in three years, but the Thunderhawks proved resilient after dropping their first game of the postseason.
“We remember how it felt after we lost last year and we didn’t want to that to happen again, so we just pushed through,” said Lakota East senior Ashley Evans, who had 23 kills, 23 digs, two blocks and an ace.
Coach Casie Garland said Lakota East’s solid passing set the tone for a good offensive showing, and McAuley coach Gene Toms agreed.
Toms said the Mohawks had “antsy feet” and struggled to make good, aggressive moves on defense. But rather than emphasize the outcome, he praised McAuley’s nine seniors, including Taylor Bove (12 kills) and Jordyn Thiery (7 kills).
“We’re going to try to celebrate the season instead of focusing on how it ended for us,” Toms said.
Lakota East setter Anna Starr finished with 54 assists, while libero Madeline Garda had 20 digs and Spenser Parks amassed 15 kills.
Then it was Lakota West’s turn. The Firebirds (20-5) won a third straight district title by controlling the tempo and making big plays at key moments.
“We knew we had to come out strong so we just had tons of energy,” outside hitter Annie Bierman said.
Coach Tracey Kornau called the win a complete team effort.
“We spread the ball out pretty evenly,” Kornau said.