GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Third time's a charm.
After exiting in the first round of the state tournament for the previous two seasons, Sutherland (25-6) picked up a 25-21, 25-17, 25-17 victory over Alma (23-9) Thursday afternoon, advancing to the Class D-1 semifinals.
The Sailors will face Exeter-Milligan at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“This was huge for us,” Sutherland coach Valerie Kershner said. “It's definitely a confidence booster moving forward.”
Six-foot senior Samantha Kennedy led the way for the Sailors with 18 kills and six ace blocks.
“She did very nice job and was able to terminate a lot of balls for us,” Kershner said.
Jalyne Schuster added eight kills while Joli Hopping dished out 31 assists. Sutherland tallied eight ace serves as a team.
“We were pretty aggressive at the net and we moved the ball around a lot,” Kershner said. “We were pretty aggressive serving the ball as well, which made it a little harder for (Alma) to run their game.”
The Sailors jumped out to a 19-9 lead in Set 1 before Alma called a timeout and came storming back to pull within 20-19.
“I told the girls to go out there and give it all you've got,” Alma coach Jennifer Rupke said. “You have one shot in this game, so you've got to get out there and give it your all.”
After the comeback attempt fell short, Sutherland fired out to leads of 6-0 in Set 2 and 10-2 in Set 3 to remain in control.
“That's been our goal, to come out strong right away,” Kershner said. “I think we also did a pretty good job of not losing our focus when we really needed it.”
Brooke Tripe and Tayler Haeker both tallied seven kills for the Cardinals while Nicole Steinhauser added six kills.
“We didn't have the outcome that we wanted, but by all means we didn't let Sutherland walk on the floor and have it,” Rupke said. “I was still proud as a coach to have the season that we did to qualify for state.”
Alma (23-9)..............................21 17 17
Sutherland (25-6).......................25 25 25
AHS (kills-aces-blocks): Brooke Tripe 7-2-0, Martena Albin 2-0-1, Tayler Haeker 7-0-0, Mariah Heft 2-0-1, Nicole Steinhauser 6-0-0, Hannah Hays 1-0-0.
SHS (kills-aces-blocks): Samantha Kennedy 18-1-6, Jalyne Schuster 8-1-0, Kristen Nelson 4-3-2, Kelsey Dillenburg 4-0-2, Joli Hopping 0-2-0, Haley Baxter 0-1-2.
Set assists: AHS 25 (Hayes 19, Steinhauser 2, Heft 2, Kiley Barwick 2); SHS 33 (Hopping 31, Nelson 2).