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High School

Lady Hawks to play Dakota for sectional title

After thumping Westmont 25-7 in the first game of the 2A sectional Tuesday, it appeared as Oregon’s volleyball team would have an easy night and advance to Thursday’s finals.

That wasn’t the case, but the Lady Hawks managed to hold on for a 3-set victory, (25-7, 22-25, 25-22) setting up a matchup against defending 1A state champ Dakota for the sectional championship. Game time is 7 p.m. at Byron.

“I think we played a very clean in the first game,” Oregon coach Christy Sitze said. “You can’t play perfect forever.”

Indeed, Oregon looked flawless in its execution, jumping out to a 17-4 lead. Westmont did score three out of the next four points, but the Lady Hawks closed the game out with the final seven points.

Devyn Absher ended the longest rally of the game with a thundering kill to make it 20-7. A block by Absher and two kills by Emy Wright put exclamation points on the final margin of victory.

“I’m not sure what happened in that first game; we hadn’t lost a game by that much all year, even playing 3A and 4A teams,” Westmont coach Jennifer Bell said. “Their ball control was much better than we saw on film.”

Westmont (28-9) studied Oregon (27-11-1) beforehand, but the Sentinels, from the western suburbs of Chicago, were a complete mystery to Oregon.

“We didn’t know anything about them,” Absher said. “Coach tells us to focus on ourselves.”

In the second game, Oregon never got into a flow and had several unforced errors in the loss. Though its kill average was down for the match, Westmont came alive in making digs.

“I just told them to clean their shorts out and start playing,” Bell said.

A close game turned into a 24-19 Westmont lead, with a net violation on Oregon giving the Sentinels the winning point.

“Sometimes, we think it comes too easy,” Delaney Mahoney said. “We needed to push harder in the second game.”

Shannon Cullen started the final game out with a kill to spur Oregon on a 7-0 run. Jordan Wilken added both a net and long-range kill in that sequence.

Then Westmont started to gain traction, pulling to within 12-11. Cydney Long quelled the rally with a much-needed kill for Oregon.

The game stayed close as both teams combined for five serving errors over the next nine points. A pair of Wright kills upped Oregon’s lead to 22-17, but another serving error and kill by the Sentinels made it 22-19.

“You can always count on an exciting match in the post season,” Sitze said.

Still holding a 3-point lead, it was Mahoney, setting up Absher for her 17th kill of the match to make it 24-20 in favor of the Lady Hawks.

“I think we have good connection and read each other well,” Absher said.

Westmont would put one more scare into Oregon with consecutive kills, but Mahoney sealed the win with an unassisted kill.

“We got the defense down better than in the second game,” Mahoney said. “Once we picked everything up, it just flowed. I don’t think we ever got nervous when they came back.”

“Delaney did a great job of spreading the offense,” Sitze said.

Mahoney had 27 assists to go along with 11 digs. Wright added 14 digs and 11 kills for a balanced floor play. Wilken had 12 digs and two aces.

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