Bell City and Advance met for the third time this season in the Class 1, District 2 tournament volleyball championship Tuesday night at Bell City. And for the third time, the match went to three games.
Unlike their previous two meetings, though, the host Cubs came away victorious with a 25-19, 11-25, 25-21 win. Bell City (21-9) move on to the sectional/quarterfinal playoff round Saturday at Advance.
"We knew we could do it," Bell City middle blocker Andreia Wondel said. "We could have done it the past two times. We did it tonight, though, and that's all that matters."
Bell City jumped out to an early lead in the first game, forcing Advance coach Kimberly Aggertt to take a timeout down 9-5. Aggertt's timeout helped spark the Hornets (26-6) on a 6-1 run that put Advance ahead 11-10.
Advance's momentum was short-lived, with Bell City coming back to grab a 14-12 lead. Nicole Tropf had a big kill to tie the score at 15, but the Cubs held off a couple of Advance charges to win the game.
"We usually don't get into it until the second game," Bell City coach Erin Hoffman said. "We knew that if we were going to win, we needed to get at it in the first game."
The top-seeded Hornets took it to the Cubs in the second game. With Tropf serving, Advance went up 6-0 and did not trail the entire game. Tropf was dominant in the game with three of her six blocks and numerous kills.
"Our intensity was high tonight," Wondel said. "We wanted it even more after we lost."
After being routed the second game, and losing senior Sarah Scherer to an injury, it looked like the Cubs would once again watch the Hornets walk away with the district trophy. But a Tropf service error to start the final game, along with some strong hitting, helped Bell City stake an early 9-4 lead.
Aggertt said her team seemed to lapse mentally in the third game just as it did in the first.
Katie Niemczyk and Sophia Camara each had several big kills in the third game to help push Bell City's lead to 19-12. Aggertt called a final timeout to try to rally the defending district champions.
Out of the timeout, the Cubs continued to run away with the game, pushing their lead all the way to match point at 24-16. With the crowd on its feet, the Hornets put together five straight points .
"We thought they were going to come back, but they didn't," Wondel said.
Niemczyk finally put the match away with a smash that just clipped the line. The game-winning kill was Niemczyk's 13th of the match.
Advances two big hitters, Tropf and Dana Williams, led the Hornets with 12 and 13 kills, respectively. Those kills did not come easy though, with the Cubs getting a hand on almost every attempt.
"We've been working on defense, defense, defense," Hoffman said. "Blocking is a big part of defense. Our middle blockers really stepped up tonight."
Niemczyk led the Cubs' defensive effort with 18 digs. Whitney Abner added 15 digs and Sarah Metcalf had nine.
Despite Advance's distinct size advantage -- the Hornets had three six-footers while Bell City had none -- the Hornets were not able to dominate the net play.
"I don't think tallness counts," Wondel said. "It's more about heart and hard work."
Wondel, along with Niemczyk and Abner, were selected to the all-district first team, announced after the match. Scherer made the second team. Advance had three first team members: Tropf, Williams and setter Alicia Broshuis.
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