Fremont Bergan was a point away from trailing top-seeded Pleasanton 2-1 in sets Friday during the semifinal round of the Class D-1 state volleyball tournament.
That point never came for the Bulldogs.
Allie DeGroff’s kill staved off set point to tie the third game at 24. Fellow senior Hannah Frost delivered a kill and DeGroff followed with an ace to give the Lady Knights the set. They went on to beat Pleasanton 25-23, 21-25, 26-24, 25-20 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“That third set was crucial,” Bergan coach Sue Wewel said. “It was nip and tuck the whole way. ... I don’t know, but something kicked in. We handled the ball really well, put down a shot or two and got some blocks.”
It was only the second time that Pleasanton had lost all season. The Bulldogs, 31-2, drop to the third-place game at 1 p.m. Saturday against Hartington Cedar Catholic. The Lady Knights, 30-11, will look to repeat as D-1 state champions against second-seeded Diller-Odell, 35-1, at 11 a.m. at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
DeGroff, one of the Lady Knights’ returning starters, had a team-best 20 kills and 38 digs. Junior Lauren Baker had 11 kills and three blocks while Frost added eight kills and a team-high five blocks.
“I felt like during the match that Pleasanton would go on (scoring) runs, but we seemed to play better at the end of each game, with the exception of the second one,” Wewel said.
The opener was tied at 19, but the Bulldogs used a kill from Natalie Siegel and a Bergan error to go up 21-19. The Lady Knights rallied, however, as Baker and DeGroff had kills sandwiched around two Pleasanton hitting errors.
The Bulldogs closed to 24-23, but DeGroff’s kill ended it. It was one of five by the senior in the opening game.
You have free articles remaining.
“Rotation 4-5-6 for them didn’t seem as strong as rotation 1-2-3 and that is where Baker and Allie went to work today,” Wewel said. “Kaia (McIntyre) was setting really well and our passes were on point for most of the time so we could stay in system.”
Pleasanton led by three in the second game, but a Frost kill cut the deficit to 18-16. The Bulldogs, though, answered with a 6-1 run, Chelsea Fisher’s kill knotted the match at a set apiece.
The fourth set was tied at 15, but a Baker kill, an ace by Kennedy Bacon, a Pleasanton error and a DeGroff kill gave the Lady Knights a four-point cushion. The Bulldogs got within three in the late stages, but McIntyre’s block sealed the match.
“I think we wore them down a bit,” said Wewel, whose squad faced a regular-season schedule that included Class A, C-1 and C-2 schools. “I think we were in a little better shape. I think we were able to finish it because of that.”
Although the Lady Knights graduated three players — Lexie Langley, Allison Dieckmann and Haley Kempf — that earned various all-state honors from last year’s team, the Lady Knights are back in the final.
“I think it is just faith in yourself and belief in yourself,” Wewel said. “The girls believe in our system and know who covers what. I think when you get to this point, it is from hard work and believing. I think there is something intricate that is inside these players that makes them really strong contenders for tomorrow.”
Senior Emma Walz had seven kills and five blocks while McIntyre distributed 49 set assists and had 24 digs. Freshman Rebecca Baker had 20 digs.
Katelyn Lindner had 20 kills and 21 digs for the Bulldogs. Isabelle Paitz added 14 kills and Kaci Pierce had 10 kills and 23 digs. Siegel recorded 49 set assists.
Diller-Odell advanced with the 25-23, 25-19, 25-22 victory. Karli Heidemann had 14 kills. Mackenzie Vitosh and Emily Swanson had seven each.