UTICA — Fremont Bergan continued its postseason perfection on Saturday night in the C2-5 district final against Sandy Creek.
The Lady Knights, who swept Omaha Brownell-Talbot and Palmyra in the C2-1 subdistrict tournament, defeated Sandy Creek 25-17, 25-17, 25-21 at Centennial High School to advance to Thursday’s state tournament at Lincoln Southwest.
“I think each year we’ve grown closer as a team,” said libero Meghan Dahlhauser, the lone senior for the Lady Knights. “I think this year we’ve worked as hard as we possibly could. We’ve come so far since this summer. We’ve put in the hard work and effort and we deserve this.”
Bergan coach Sue Wewel believes the Lady Knights are playing their best ball at the right time of the season.
“I think we are, for the most part,” she said. “We’re 9-0 in sets in (the postseason). I think tonight we showed our dominance in the first two games. We made a few errors in the third game, but those are just things we’ll need to clean up.”
Junior setter Allison Dieckmann, who finished with 43 set assists, 15 digs, two kills and 12 points, said her teammates did a great job of passing. It enabled her to distribute the ball so hitters like Lexie Langley, Haley Kempf and Allie DeGroff could go to work.
“Haley and Lexie were hitting it very well and so was Allie,” she said. “I think it made us all more confident. I could mix the ball up and set wherever I wanted and the ball was going down.”
Bergan jumped to a 10-4 lead in the opener and never let the Cougars get closer than four points the rest of the set.
“We were all pretty nervous before the game, but once we started playing I think we settled in,” said Langley, who led Bergan with 17 kills and added 11 digs. “After that first set, I think we all realized if we play like we’re capable of we’ll come out with a win.”
Bergan trailed early in the second set, but a kill by Langley, an error by Sandy Creek and an ace serve by Kempf put the Lady Knights ahead 5-3. Kenzie Turman’s kill helped the Cougars close to 12-10, but Kempf answered with one of her 12 kills during a 3-0 Bergan run. DeGroff registered one of her eight kills to close the set.
“The Palmyra match gave us a lot of confidence,” Langley said. “We knew we had to take out their strongest hitters and I think we did that fairly well. We also knew we just had to keep working as a team.”
Sandy Creek led 5-4 in the third on an assisted block by Grace Messenger and Turman. After an 11-11 tie, freshman Lauren Baker, Langley and DeGroff had kills to put Bergan up 16-12. Sandy Creek battled, though, and closed to 19-18 on a Kambria Chohon kill forcing Wewel to use a timeout.
“We always talk about that you never want to give a team hope when you are ahead, “Wewel said. “You want to make sure you take care of the ball. It was a little frustrating in the third game, but we were able to take control.”
Bergan led 22-21 before a Sandy Creek service error. A Langley kill and an error by the Cougars ended the match.
“I think our communication was one of the keys for us tonight,” said Dahlhauser, who finished with 15 digs and two aces. “This was one of the loudest gyms that we’ve played in, but we were really talking to each other. Our energy was really good. If someone made a mistake, we just picked each other up.”
The Lady Knights were also meticulous in their preparation of the Cougars.
“During the week we took time to watch a lot of film so we would know what to do and what the open spots would be tonight,” Dieckmann said. “Just watching film and going through all of our (repetitions) made us very confident tonight. Coach Wewel really believed in us and told us we deserved this. That brought us all up and let us know that we could do this.”
Kaia McIntrye had nine digs while Baker had five kills. Emma Walz added two kills, two digs and two block assists. DeGroff had 14 digs.
Bergan will now turn its attention to Stanton. The Lady Knights will face the Mustangs at 1:30 Thursday afternoon.
Wewel scouted Stanton earlier this season.
“They are a very sound team,” she said. “They take care of the ball and they have really good hitters in the middle and on the right side. They are a well-rounded team.”
Wewel stepped away as the Lady Knights’ head coach following the 2009 season, but returned this year. She is taking Bergan to its first state appearance since 2007.
“These girls are amazing,” she said. “For me to see the joy they have on their faces means an awful lot to me.”
Dieckmann, the daughter of Bergan assistant Kim Dieckmann, can’t wait for the state tournament to begin.
“I’m very excited to play,” she said. “It will be hard to wait until Thursday, but we’ll be ready.”