OVERTON — Status quo has been retained.
The Fort Kearny Conference volleyball championship will remain in the hands of its most recent champions.
Overton, seeking its fourth straight crown, advanced to Thursday's title game with a 25-17, 25-23 win over S-E-M in the semifinals Tuesday at Overton.
In the other semifinal, Axtell, in pursuit of its sixth championship in the last decade, defeated Elm Creek 25-17.
Thursday's final will be played in Wilcox. It will be the third time in the last four years the Eagles and Wildcats have met in the championship.
That big-game experience helped Overton (19-4) rally from a 19-11 deficit in the second set against the Mustangs.
“More than anything, I have to say the girls have been there before,” Overton coach Hayley Ryan said. “I have six seniors on the team and they've been in some tough games. They've been in the FKC the last four years and they know, playing hard, they can come from behind. ... We've been there before. I have confidence in them and they have confidence in each other knowing they've pulled through in close games.”
The late rally included three kills by Kinzy Enochs and one each by Madison Beavers and Alyssa Bourbon. Beavers also had an ace serve.
The rally also included five attack errors and three service errors by the Mustangs (12-11)— the stranger in the midst of the semifinal.
Playing in the semifinals was a new experience for all the S-E-M girls and their lack of experience appeared to come through. In the past decade, the Mustangs have reached the FKC semifinals just once, in 2006. The following year was their last winning season. In the five years between 2007 and this year, S-E-M has a total of 29 victories.
“They don't know what to do with it when they're ahead. They've never been there before,” coach Adam Kuntz said. “They play good volleyball then, 'Are we actually here, ready to win right now? What do we do now?'
“You can actually see it in their faces. They go up and their hits aren't normal, our setters got cold feet, our passers didn't finish their passes. It was a chain effect.”
To some degree, it happened in the first set, too. Tied at 16-16, the Mustangs suffered through seven attack errors in the last 10 points.
Winning the first set was important to the Eagles. They lost the first set to S-E-M earlier this year. And, watching the Mustangs improve through the year had Ryan worried. But Overton had one advantage — playing at home.
“Having the band, the parents gave gifts to the senior girls knowing it was their last home game, and it was just an emotional time,” Ryan said.
The seniors came through. Enochs finished with nine kills and Beavers had six. Alex Carlson picked up 11 assists.
Four players — Abby Miller, Addy Fisher, Enochs and Beavers, finished with double-digit kills.
“They were on the floor even more than they have the last few games,” Ryan said.
Alicia Pierce, a sophomore, led S-E-M with nine kills. Brieanna James, a junior, had four. Rachel Ibach handed out 17 assists, while Shaylee Burr and Miranda Pierce had 16 and 13 digs, respectively.
Axtell 2, Elm Creek 0
OVERTON — Axtell put together decisive scoring runs to advance past Elm Creek in two sets in the Fort Kearny Conference Tournament semifinals.
A 7-1 run in the first set — which included two kills by Hannah Kring, two more by Kit Wells and a block by Carlie Prososki — helped Axtell pull away to a 19-14 lead that was enough to hold off a late rally by the Buffaloes.
Then, 9-0 and 7-0 runs in the second set provided the difference as Axtell advanced.
“We could not break it,” Elm Creek coach Brandi McCarter said of Axtell's scoring runs.
The two in the second set came down to passing.
“Defensively, we really struggled tonight,” she said.
Prososki, Kring and Wells finished the match with seven kills apiece, while Laura Lundeen had six.
McCarter said the Buffaloes (14-8) changed their rotation to get a stronger block on Kring but “that didn't matter because everything else that's been working didn't work.”
Meanwhile, a lot of things were working for Axtell (14-6), which got 25 set assists from Gabbie Nickel and two ace serves by Kring.
“We played much better tonight. We didn't have nearly as many hitting errors as we did last night. We were a lot scrappier than we were last night. So I was really happy with how we played,” coach Brad Nelson said.
Shelbi Brown led Elm Creek with six kills, while Torie Miner, Erin Haberlan and Casi Sutherland had three each. Shelby Ferguson had 15 assists.
Elm Creek will play S-E-M at 6 p.m. Thursday in Wilcox in the consolation match with the championship match to follow.