PAXTON — Unity wound up going more than a decade between regional titles. The Rockets started slow Thursday in the Class 2A Paxton Regional championship but snapped that streak with a 25-21, 25-18 win against host Paxton-Buckley-Loda. Unity (32-5) will return to action at 7 p.m. Monday against Herscher in a sectional semifinal at Watseka.
“It feels awesome,” Unity coach Kylie Hockersmith said. “It’s just something that was a goal of ours. It’s a really big step for our program. ... Unfortunately, we’re a little well known for starting off a little slow. I had faith that once they got those jitters out and started controlling our side a little bit more, we’d be OK.”
Unity’s sweep ended PBL’s season after the Panthers set a school record for wins with 30. It was also PBL’s first regional championship match since 2012.
“The future is bright,” PBL coach Lindsay Stalowy said. “We know what it’s like to compete in a regional championship now.”
Eagles break serious streak. It had been more than four decades since DeLand-Weldon last won a regional championship in volleyball. All it took was outstanding performances from four seniors to rewrite the record books.
Hannah Cunningham had “the match of her life,” according to DeLand-Weldon coach Jay Schatz. The senior middle led the Eagles with 19 kills in a 25-10, 25-23 win against Argenta-Oreana in Thursday’s Class 1A LeRoy Regional championship.
“This is wonderful,” Schatz said. “We got (to the regional championship) three previous times in the last 10 years but we just weren’t able to finish it.”
Fellow seniors Haley Reynolds (eight kills, seven digs), Chloe Melvin (24 assists) and Peyton Lappin (11 digs) helped lead the Eagles (20-1) to their first regional title in 42 seasons, and they’ll play at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Milford against the Bearcats. Madelyn Tipsword finished with 12 kills and two blocks for Argenta-Oreana (15-12).
Steady Spartans capture crown. A balanced attack with four different players putting down at least four kills helped St. Joseph-Ogden sweep Monticello 25-13, 25-18 on Thursday to win the Class 2A Oakwood Regional championship.
“That’s something that we have rally praised these kids for all season,” SJ-O coach Abby McDonald said of her team’s balance. “It takes a lot of pressure off our outsides — especially knowing if a team is really keyed in on them we’ve got other kids that can score.”
Katelyn Berry led the Spartans’ balanced approach against Monticello with nine kills. Payton Vallee had four apiece. Kalen Roy had a double-double for Monticello (20-15) with 13 digs and 10 assists.
With the win, SJ-O (33-4) advances to a 6 p.m. Monday sectional semifinal match against Seneca at Watseka while riding an 18-match winning streak.
“That was somewhat of an upset (Thursday),” McDonald said of Seneca’s own regional win. “We thought we might be playing Manteno, who we had already faced. It’s kind of back to the drawing board. I have a really great staff, and they’re really helpful when it comes to that piece.”
Knights win another title. Blue Ridge won its seventh straight regional title with a 25-14, 25-13 sweep of Judah Christian on Thursday. Nadia Beadle led the Knights (29-8) with 17 digs, 11 kills and two aces, while Jenna Mozingo had 16 digs and Gracie Shaffer 18 assists. Blue Ridge will continue postseason play at 6:30 p.m. Monday against Illinois Lutheran in a sectional semifinal at Milford.
Abby Fredrick paced Judah Christian (19-11) with 11 assists, three digs and two aces. Jenna Barnhart added three kills and eight digs for the Tribe.
Bearcats strong on the road. The bonus for Milford after sweeping Lexington 25-18, 25-20 for the Class 1A Streator Regional championship? The Bearcats (28-4-1) get to stay home for the sectional, with a 5:30 p.m. Monday match with DeLand-Weldon.
A strong serve and Caley Mowrey’s presence at the net helped Milford claim its regional title. The Bearcats’ sophomore led the way with 16 kills and four blocks, while Kaylee Warren had 28 assists and Jakki Mowrey 14 digs.
Titans sweep way to title. Tri-County added another regional title to its lengthy list in the last decade with a 25-15, 25-17 sweep of Okaw Valley in its own Class 1A Regional.
Kaylenn Hunt was a force at the net for Tri-County (22-8) with a team-high 17 kills and three blocks. Tri-County will continue postseason play at 6:30 p.m. Monday in a sectional semifinal against Altamont in Windsor.