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DIETERICH — The South Central High School volleyball team overcame an early seven-point deficit on Tuesday to defeat Edwards County in three sets to advance to Thursday's sectional championship game at 7 p.m.
The Lady Cougars won, 20-25, 25-17, 25-12, on the strength of strong serving and hitting in the final two sets, notably from senior Kinzie Neilson, who had eights aces and nine kills on the night.
Four of her aces came in the second set and another four came in the final set.
“Kinzie’s serves tonight were awesome,” said coach Mary Brimberry. “She knows how to serve with power and keep it inbounds. They might have brought up a couple that would have been out, but as long as they were messing that up, that was her gameplan and that was what she was going to do.”
The Lady Cougars started the match facing an 8-1 deficit, however, after Edwards County's Ashley Gillard served three aces in eight tries.
Brimberry used an early timeout, and team eventually came back to within one point at both 11-12 and 17-18, but the Lady Cougars would not lead.
“It looked like we were chickens running around with out heads cut off,” Brimberry said. “We were wanting to cover for each other so much that we were running at each other and not getting the job done.
"But once they settled down a bit, we were fine."
South Central really settled in when Neilson took over the serve in the second set.
The teams had battled to a 6-6 tie before Neilson earned a kill to bring herself to the service line, and by the time she was done, the Lady Cougars were ahead, 13-6.
She had two aces in that stretch, and senior Korren Smith, and juniors Kellie Crain and Kallie Garrett each recorded kills.
Edwards County would come back within four at 13-17, but after junior Natalie Chapman recorded a kill to put South Central ahead, 19-15, the Lady Cougars would outscore the Lady Lions, 6-2, the rest of the way.
Senior Sarah Kramer continued that momentum in the third set, serving the first seven points of the match to give the Lady Cougars a 7-0 lead.
"That was comfortable, wasn’t it?" Brimberry said. "That’s nice. It was nice to get that lead."
During that stretch, senior Emily Atwood, junior Lexi Schafer and Chapman each had kills.
Edwards County never made a serious threat, and Neilson all but sealed the win for South central when she served seven straight points — including four aces — to move the Lady Cougars ahead, 19-9.
The match would end with back-to-back kills from Atwood and Chapman, giving South Central some momentum it can carry into the Thursday's championship match against Altamont.
"It gives us a lot," Neilson said. "We've never made it this far, and we wanted it so bad, so we knew we had to build up the momentum."