ALEXANDRIA — Sheridan didn’t have an answer for Allie Hueston on Thursday night. And, consequently, the Blackhawks had little chance of surviving its Class 2A sectional opener against fifth-ranked Alexandria.
Hueston racked up 19 kills, five blocks and three aces as the Tigers rolled to a 25-8, 25-11, 25-19 victory.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Sheridan’s Paige Neff had a team-high nine kills, with seven coming in the closer-than-expected final set.
Alexandria struggled to close out the match as the Blackhawks would not allow them to pull away. The Tigers never led by more than seven points in the third set and split the match’s final 20 points.
“The third game was not good,” Alexandria coach Jeff Harmon said. “This late in the season, we need to be more focused. I’m not taking anything away from Sheridan, but with our expected level of play, that’s unacceptable.”
Focus wasn’t a problem for the Tigers early on.
Alexandria scored the match’s first 10 points, with Hueston contributing four kills and a block. The second set started much the same way, with the Tigers surging to a 12-3 lead and coasting home.
“She’s fired up,” Harmon said of Hueston. “She’s one of our crucial players. When her and Abi (Miller) are on, the whole team’s on. They seem to follow on their momentum.”
Miller finished with three kills and two aces. But it was setter Makaylea Alberts who best took advantage of the problems Hueston presented for the Blackhawks’ defense.
With Sheridan’s blockers sprinting to Hueston’s position in the front row, Alberts routinely dumped quick shots over the net for Tigers’ points. She finished with six kills and four blocks, and Jordan Goodman added three kills and an ace.
“The first two games, we played well,” Harmon said. “We were doing what we needed to do, what we were taught to do and what we’re supposed to do. We did lose focus in the last game. This late in the season, we can’t do that.”
The Tigers will play Tipton in Saturday’s second semifinal. Play begins at 11 a.m. with sixth-ranked Madison-Grant facing Elwood for the fourth time this season. The Argylls won the previous three meetings.
The championship match is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Harmon said his team seems to play better against stronger competition, and it will need to do just that on Saturday.
A solid rivalry has developed between Bob Hollowell’s Madison-Grant program and the Tigers over the past few years, and that could continue in the championship match.
“We’re not looking past Tipton,” Harmon said. “But I know Bob’s going to have his team ready, and I think we’ll be ready, too. If we can make it to the final, it should be a pretty good battle.”