In its debut in the Class 3A postseason, Coal City more than held its own with hosting Morris in the middle of both games it played Monday night.
Starting and finishing were another story.
The Redskins prevailed in quarterfinal play at their own 3A regional, 25-23, 25-22, largely because they built a 7-2 lead to begin Game 1 and a 9-2 lead to begin Game 2. Coal City got within 24-23 in the first game and got even at 13-13 in the second but could never overtake the Redskins, who advance to pay Joliet Catholic Academy today at 6 p.m.
"We were really pumped up and out to get off to a strong start," Morris senior outside hitter Marcella Toups said. "Some games, in the first game, we haven't started that strong before we play better in the second. Tonight we knew it was important to step up from the beginning and get off to good starts in both games."
Coal City, which was a 2A team in volleyball until this season, did not get its first service point until Donjetta Shabani had an ace with Morris already ahead 7-3. The Redskin lead continued to grow, peaking at 21-12 on the second of two JoAnna Nowicki service points.
A service error gave Shabani another chance, and she quickly reeled off four straight points to make it a 21-18 game. Morris countered with a sidout kill from Kendall Korte and a Laney Torkelson ace before the Lady Coalers drew within one on a Claire Smith sideout kill and three Hailey Reilly points. Traded sideouts were followed by Korte pounding down a sideout kill for the win.
"We just talked about coming out and playing our game in our gym, to be talking and be moving, and I thought we did a good job," Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said.
A net violation, a service error and three straight hitting errors contributed to the Lady Coalers falling in a 7-1 hole in the second game. Again they rallied, with five Emily Halliday points drawing them even. A Kailyn Korte sideout kill restored the lead to the Redskins and they never lost it, though two straight points from Nicole Borgetti after Morris had led 24-20 made it interesting before a Nowicki sideout kill ended the match.
"It was not a bad effort by any means for our first time in 3A, but you're right, spotting them (nine) points and then (six) just can't happen," Coal City coach Michael Lanoue said. "In spite of that, we were able to stay with it. Our serve receive was pretty decent and we were able to figure out Morris' defense by Game 2."
Kendall Korte and Halliday tied for the match lead in kills with nine each, but the Lady Coalers had nobody else with more than three, whereas the Redksins got seven from Toups, six from Torkelson and five from Nowicki. Morris setter Katie Chatten totaled 24 assists.