GREENVILLE — It was win or go home Monday for the Civic Memorial Eagles and East Alton-Wood River Oilers in the Class 3A Greenville Regional quarterfinals. Fortunately for the Eagles, they will live to fight another day.
CM defeated EA-WR 25-19, 25-11 to keep its season churning. The Eagles improved to 14-16-3 with the victory and advance to face Jacksonville in the regional semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Oilers see their season conclude at 11-19 with the loss.
“We played a really clean match and that's one thing we've really needed to focus on, cleaning up our errors,” third-year CM head coach Amanda Biggs said. “We started off strong and that was one thing we really emphasized because we've been struggling with that a little toward the end of our season and at Quincy Notre Dame Tournament that was really one of our downfalls. We wanted to come out with a lot of kills right at the beginning and focus on our serves and make sure we were dominant in the areas that we should be.”
They did that, charging out to a 6-0 lead in Game 1, getting kills from Kennedy Carnes and Kaity Kappler and an ace from Sydney Marshall during the hot start.
“I was definitely feeling my serving game tonight,” said Marshall, who finished with a team-high 4 aces and 24 assists. “That was probably the best I've done all season. Our team really pulled it together and worked together to set the tone.”
EA-WR head coach Patti Scott thought the hot start and crisp serving of the Eagles made it a tough hole for the Oilers to climb out of on Monday.
“It's hard indeed and we did nothing but practice serve receive for four days because I know they have good serves obviously, but I really thought we were going to be able to pick it out,” Scott said.
EA-WR dwindled it to 6-3, but could never get over the hump against the Eagles, who never relinquished a lead to the Oilers throughout the match.
CM raced ahead 17-7 in Game 1, getting aces in its service game through five its first six rotations.
“It's amazing,” Marshall said. “We're a really great serving team and we really showed it tonight in this regional match.”
But a kill by EA-WR's Brittany Grayson stopped the bleeding, kick starting a 4-0 spurt to get it to 17-11. A block by Lexi Johnson and consecutive aces by Christen Falstitch helped highlight the Oilers' run.
EA-WR got it to 23-18 and 24-19 late, but a kill by CM's Hannah Schmidt closed out the opening game, denying the Oilers.
Carnes, a junior middle hitter for the Eagles, said limiting errors and staving off EA-WR was a huge confidence boost. It's been the lift they've needed moving forward in the postseason.
“We had a meeting before the game and we talked about how we needed to communicate and how we need to finish strong, because we've been struggling with finishing,” Carnes said. “We proved our point tonight, we did well.”
Game 2 belonged to CM, which catapulted out to an early 8-1 advantage. Carnes and Kappler each provided a pair of kills in the swift start.
The Oilers got it to 11-5, but the Eagles answered with a 7-0 series to nab a commanding 18-5 lead. Senior Kylie Linkeman sparked the spurt with a kill, which also included a couple of Schmidt kills and an ace from Kappler. The run was the staggering blow to EA-WR.
CM outscored the Oilers just 7-6 down the stretch, but it was enough to close it out. It was Carnes and Kappler picking up a block at the net to close it out in favor of the Eagles.
“We tried really hard and I'm proud of them for not giving up, but that's a tough team,” Scott said of CM.
EA-WR now says goodbye to nine seniors, including Johnson, Falstitch, Grayson, Natalie Mundel, Emme Flanigan, Tori Covington, Lauren Reynolds, Shelby Yarbrough and Kelsey Hauser. Scott was hoping for a few more wins from such a veteran group, but she was never disappointed in their work ethic.
“I was hoping for more, but if you look at 11 matches we lost we went three games and didn't pull them out,” Scott said. “We were looking at it today. It could have been an outstanding season. It's that Game 2, we just can't pull that Game 2 out. It's a good group of girls though.”
Now the Eagles will shift their attention to Jacksonville. Biggs said the Crimsons (12-18) play a similar game to CM, so she hopes for a battle on Tuesday.
“We were fortunate enough to see them at Quincy, watched one of their matches and we're excited to play them,” Biggs said. “I think it's going to be a great match. We're anxious to see how we will be tested. They play a game similar to ours. They aren't very big but they are aggressive at the net.”
Carnes thinks Jacksonville will play faster than the Oilers, but she thinks her and her teammates will be ready.
“I expect some quick plays, quicker than what we saw tonight, but I think it will be a good rivalry between us,” she said.
Carnes led the Eagles with eight kills Monday, while Schmidt and Kappler chipped in with five each. Cara Melton paced the defense with 18 digs and McKenna Geist added 12 for good measure.
Greenville will meet top-seeded Quincy Notre Dame in the other semifinal at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The regional finals are set for 6 p.m. Thursday.