GARDNER — Gardner-South Wilmington junior middle blocker Breann Fisher says that the Lady Panthers played one of their best matches of the varsity girls volleyball season Tuesday night.
River Valley Conference rival Illinois Lutheran was slightly better than the Lady Panthers, though, knocking off the hosts 25-20, 21-25, 25-23 in semifinal action at the Class 1A Gardner-South Wilmington Regional. Illinois Lutheran will play Grant Park, a 25-23, 25-14 winner over Donovan in Tuesday's other semifinal, in the championship match Thursday.
GSW was down 12-7 at one point in the second game before rallying to win. Illinois Lutheran returned the favor in the third, erasing a 23-21 Lady Panther lead with a Kathy Wilkening sideout kill and three straight Caroline Kuether service points to steal the match.
"We left it out on the floor," Fisher said. "I feel we definitely communicated better (starting late in Game 2), and we came together as a team. Communication has been something we haven't always done, but we played as one tonight."
Two service points from junior Paige Lardi started the Lady Panthers' comback in the second game. The second of two Emily Foley points, killed by senior captain Abby Horrie, gave them their first lead of the match at 15-14.. They never trailed again, taking the lead for good at 19-18 on a Sam Schultz sideout kill, which Bryanna DeMoraes followed with two straight aces. Fisher later served up the final two points, with Lexi Posing providing a block on the second.
"The girls realized where we were and decided they didn't want their season to end," GSW coach Melissa Cardone said. "It was going to end soon if we didn't make something happen. They didn't want that to happen, and they really fought hard."
Illinois Lutheran got four straight points from Wilkening to build a 9-3 third-game lead which later grew to 15-8 before the Lady Panther came back. They got a point each from Fisher and Horrie before Ally Matthews served up three to cut the deficit to 18-17. A Schultz sideout kill set up DeMoraes to serve up two points for a 20-19 GSW lead.
With the score tied at 21-21, GSW got a sideout kill from Brittany O'Dell and a Fisher service point to get within two points of advancing. From there, Wilkening killed the serve back to the Chargers and killed the final point, with Carly Seehausen notching kills on the tying and go-ahead points.
Fisher recorded a team-high seven kills with five points and two aces for GSW, which bows out at 4-20 overall. Horrie and Shultz had six kills each. DeMoraes served up nine points and four aces, and Emily Foley had the team lead in assists with 13.