Alter coach Tina Jasinowski predicted a battle before the Knights regional semifinal match and she was right on the mark.
The Knights fought off three match points and battled back from a two-set deficit to edge out beat Fenwick, 23-25, 19-25, 26-24, 25-18, 15-7, in the Division II regional volleyball semifinals at Butler High School Thursday.
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It was a picture-perfect match for an Alter team that adopted “Survivor” as its theme for the season.
“In the first 2 ½ sets, Fenwick played almost flawless volleyball,” Jasinowski said. “But we train so hard, I knew if we could stay the course, we could outlast them.”
Even down 24-21 in the third set, there was never a sense of panic on the Knights side of the net. Senior opposite hitter Jessica Ward helped close the gap and senior libero Elizabeth House pulled the Knights to within one, 24-23, on a service ace. Alter took the lead, 25-24, on a Falcons miscue and closed out the must-win third set on the next play.
“We wanted it so badly,” Alter senior outside hitter Marie Gross said. “We knew how good Fenwick was but we never gave up.”
Gross led all Knights hitters with 20 kills and just two errors on 32 attempts.
Once the Knights were able to close out the third set, the momentum swung in their favor and their confidence grew incrementally.
“When it swung our way, it stayed our way,” Jasinowski said. “And we’ve got seven seniors so, once they got a little confidence, it made a big difference.”
It was the third time the conference foes faced each other this season and the third time that Alter posted a five-set win. While dropping the first two sets wasn’t in the game plan, Jasinowski and the Knights will happily take the final outcome.
“If I have a choice between starting strong or finishing strong, I’ll take the finish every time,” the veteran coach said.
A state berth will be on the line Saturday as the Knights (20-6) face off against Kenton Ridge (24-3) in the D-II final. The Cougars fought to a 19-25, 25-19, 25-16, 26-24 win over Logan Elm in the other D-II regional semifinal. Senior Peyton Fleming and junior Mikala Morris led the offensive attack for the Cougars with 17 and 16 kills, respectively.
“This is so big,” Fleming said. “I was here my freshman year but I didn’t get to play. This is really uncharted territory for us.”
Kenton Ridge made its last regional finals appearance three years ago playing Alter. The Knights advanced to the state tournament that season.
The D-II final gets underway at 2 p.m. at Butler.