Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

HS VOLLEYBALL --Sports-- Abby Meckling and Emily Macpherson of the Notre Dame Cougars block a hit by Hunting Hills High School Lightning Kristen Loney during the senior high school girls volleyball zone semifinal at Lindsay Thurber on Thursday night.

Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

HS VOLLEYBALL --Sports-- Abby Meckling and Emily Macpherson of the Notre Dame Cougars block a hit by Hunting Hills High School Lightning Kristen Loney during the senior high school girls volleyball zone semifinal at Lindsay Thurber on Thursday night.

Cougars, Raiders advance to zone finals

Notre Dame Cougars senior girls volleyball head coach Jeremy Batchelor admitted he didn’t glance at the score clock as his team was being badly outplayed in the third set of the 4A zone sudden-death semifinal Thursday at Lindsay Thurber. Up 2-0 in the best-of-five match versus the Hunting Hills Lightning, the Cougars trailed 20-4 in the third set before mounting an amazing rally and pulling out a 27-25 victory to complete the sweep and earn a berth in the zone final.

Cougars 3 Lightning 0

Notre Dame Cougars senior girls volleyball head coach Jeremy Batchelor admitted he didn’t glance at the score clock as his team was being badly outplayed in the third set of the 4A zone sudden-death semifinal Thursday at Lindsay Thurber.

Up 2-0 in the best-of-five match versus the Hunting Hills Lightning, the Cougars trailed 20-4 in the third set before mounting an amazing rally and pulling out a 27-25 victory to complete the sweep and earn a berth in the zone final.

“Was that the actual score, 20 to 4? I knew it was bad, I didn’t know it was that bad,” said Batchelor. “Honestly, we were thinking, OK, let’s just play it out and come back in the fourth set and take the game.”

That a fourth set was not forthcoming was incredible, considering the manner in which the Lightning ruled with their season on the line. They were a mere three points away from victory in the third set with a 22-7 lead and were up 24-14 before the Cougars, with Kamryn Henderson holding serve, rallied to pull even and then completed the improbable comeback.

“That was all on the girls. It was unreal how they pulled together on and off the court,” said Batchelor, whose squad prevailed 25-21, 25-20 in the first two sets. “They really relied on each other.”

Prior to the semifinal, the Cougars had not dropped a single set to the Lightning over several matches this fall. That shutout run, it very much appeared, was going to end on the Thurber court Thursday.

“I was getting prepared for the speech I was going to give to rally them back up and make sure we win the next game,” said Batchelor. “I was so happy that I didn’t have to give that speech.

“It was amazing what the girls did. It’s huge moving forward and going into the zone championship with that win.”

The Cougars will meet the Lindsay Thurber Raiders for the zone 4A title and a berth in the provincials. The best-of-five zone final will likely start Nov. 17.

Raiders 3 Lightning 0

The host Raiders rolled to a 3-0 victory over Hunting Hills in the senior boys semifinal, winning the first set 25-12 in convincing fashion, then taking control of the next two sets around the midway point of each while posting 25-21, 25-19 triumphs.

“The key for us was our first contact and just controlling the tempo of the game,” said Raiders head coach Terence McMullen. “We eliminated some of their middle attack which made it easier for us to block the ball.

“We used our strength, which is our middles, but playing consistent is always the biggest thing at this time of the year. You play to your strengths and try and execute better than the team you’re playing.”

While the Raiders were 5-0 in head-to-head meetings with their crosstown rivals prior to Thursday, McMullen wasn’t necessarily expecting a sweep.

“I thought they (Lightning) were scrappy at times,” said the Raiders sideline boss. “They had some good digs but just couldn’t turn them around, and our service pressure kind of wore them down a bit. They were a little short on their bench so we could pick on a guy, kind of get on him, especially with our spin serves.

“It was hard for them to adjust to it.”

The Raiders will face the top-seeded Notre Dame Cougars in the best-of-three 4A zone final.