Sandburg escapes Andrew, T.F. South cruises past Richards

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When they met the first time during the regular season, Sandburg crushed Andrew in two sets in about 30 minutes.

In Tuesday’s Class 4A Andrew Regional semifinal rematch, the Eagles crushed the hosts in the first set, 25-9.

What happened after that, outside hitter Bridget Lebert believed, was the result of an opponent showing a lot of heart.

“They didn’t give up. They put up an awesome fight. They had awesome blocking, awesome defense and awesome serving,” Lebert said of Andrew, which took the Eagles to the wire in Set 2 before the Eagles prevailed 25-23.

Sandburg (29-7) advanced to Thursday’s regional final against T.F. South (26-4), which defeated Richards in the other semi 25-12, 25-12.

Leah Lane, Kelly Finlay and Lebert had six kills each, Kelly McGovern six digs, Alyssa Kijewski three aces and Sami Knight 20 assists in Sandburg’s win.

Andrew (9-22) was paced by Baylee Panfil (3 kills, 4 blocks, 5 digs) and Nicole Bernardi (3 kills).

It was a stunning turn of events, to be sure, after a first set in which Sandburg peppered Andrew with a continual flow of tough serves and power hits. During a 14-2 start, Kijewski had a trio of aces and Lane three kills.

Set 2, however, saw a different Andrew team that started with a 5-2 run, keyed by two blocks and a kill by Panfil. Lexi Pranckus was also a firestarter, her kill leading to a 5-0 run that left the T-Bolts in front 14-12.

“You know what,” Pranckus said, “Coach (Courtney) Stoub told me, ‘X, get ‘em fired up. We have nothing to lose. Go out like it’s your last time playing volleyball.’ And we brought it.”

Andrew led 19-18 after a block by Panfil before Sandburg rallied behind two kills and a block by Finlay. A huge kill from the right side by Lebert on a set by Knight put the Eagles up 24-22, before the two teams ended the match trading unforced errors.

“We kept confidence in ourselves that we were going to win, but (Andrew) put up a good fight, which was impressive,” Knight said.

T.F. South cruised over Richards behind Crystal Lee (6 kills, 8 blocks), Briana Lilly (4 kills, 9 blocks), Jenna Pasko (4 kills, 8 blocks), Madyson Anthony (4 kills), Ashtyn Kapovich (5 digs) and Abbe Mullen (18 assists).

Katelyn Sullivan had seven assists, Dana Wujcik six digs and Shannon Gardner three kills for Richards (20-9).

The Rebels had just too much from too many directions for the Bulldogs to handle.

“It’s really fun because we’re all a big part of the team,” Pasko said. “We all celebrate everybody’s kills. It’s all teamwork.”

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