TOLONO — St. Thomas More tried different combinations early in its volleyball season, but it appears the Sabers have unlocked the winning formula now.
STM, which did not have a lot of experience at the outset, defeated Paxton-Buckley-Loda 17-25, 25-15, 25-16 on Thursday night in a Class 2A regional final.
“It feels good,” Sabers coach Brad Dalton said. “We had a little bumpy road to start the season. We played a lot of kids. Then in the last three to four weeks, we settled in on a lineup and built on our team chemistry and brought it together at the right time. We’re peaking.”
The Sabers will face Decatur St. Teresa in the St. Joseph-Ogden Sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Top-seeded PBL (25-6) finished with the most wins in school history.
“We should have beaten them,” Panthers coach Kristin Oyer said.
Sophomore Lexi Wallen led third-seeded STM’s attack with 15 kills. “She’s pretty dynamic,” Dalton said. “She’s got to be a lock for first-team All-Area. She’s just a phenomenal athlete.”
Louisette Lukusa had four blocks and five kills.
“We didn’t execute our offense very well tonight,” Dalton said. “I think a lot of that had to do with nerves, but the kids blocked well and played good defense, and they kept the emotion of the match going. It was just a great team effort tonight. These kids have worked so hard all season long, and they deserve to celebrate tonight.”
Kailey Kleinert led the Panthers with 14 kills and two blocks.
“It’s just hard because we saw how we could play in Game 1, and we should have just continued that,” Oyer said. “We got stuck (after Set 1) and had some bad serves at crucial times.”