NORMAL, Ill. — In a set full of breath-taking moments, it is easy to forget the play that might have saved the Quincy Notre Dame volleyball team in its 25-19, 28-26 victory over Newton on Friday in the Class 2A state semifinals at Redbird Arena.
The Raiders trailed 14-6 in the second set, but they crept back and eventually tied the score at 18. Newton grabbed the lead at 21-20 on an off-balance kill by Mariah Earnest. Frustrated QND blocker Sydney Hummert yelled "No!" as she tried to avoid the ball, but it softly bounced off her arm and out of bounds.
On the next point, Newton setter Maddi Hemrich set the ball outside to Abby Frohning, who had 15 kills in the match. Frohning pounded the ball again, but this time it was into the block of sophomore Meredith Siebers, and the ball fell on Newton's side of the net to tie the score at 21.
"Number 19 (Siebers) put a big block on Abby," Newton coach Jill Kistner said. "Abby made a great swing at it, and (Siebers) made a move at the last second and got her.
"Had that went down ... "
When Raiders coach Rich Meyer was asked in the postgame press conference if that was the point that may have swung the match in his team's favor, nearly all of the QND players standing behind him in the room shook their heads in agreement.
"You need big plays out of everybody," Meyer said. "You can't be isolated on the court. You never know when we need your help."
Siebers had just two kills and one block in the match until that play.
"I was just really excited," she said. "I got my confidence back after I got that block."
There were more big plays to come.
QND went up 22-21 on a hitting error by Frohning, but a kill by Frohning and a hitting error by Erin Carey put Newton two points away from forcing a third set.
Carey came back with an off-speed kill to tie the score at 23. A kill by Taylor Keck put QND at match point, but a hitting error by Keck tied the score again.
QND went back in front after a Monica Brown kill ended a long rally. The point was kept alive with a sprawling dig by libero Hannah Peters, who also had another diving point-saving play later in the match.
"I just go for it," Peters said. "I just sacrifice my body. I have nothing to lose, so I just give it my best, and hopefully I can get it up."
"Hannah Peters made a couple of saves that were pretty unbelievable for a girl who hasn't played much back there," Meyer said. "When it got down to the nitty gritty, she said, 'I'm going to get any ball that's on the court.' She's so quick."
A net violation by Molly Penn allowed Newton to tie the score again, but Penn came back with a tip kill to put QND ahead one more time. A poor pass by the Raiders allowed the score to be tied at 26, but Siebers hit another off-speed kill to put QND ahead for good.
Hummert finally ended the match with a kill.
"(QND) kept changing their speeds," Kistner said. "Credit to them. They hit those hard shots, and we were right there for it, so they took some speed off. You can't just be able to hit a 90-miles-an-hour fastball. You have to change your speeds."
The Raiders (33-8) advance to Saturday's championship game at 1:30 p.m. against Champaign St. Thomas More, which defeated Elgin Harvest Christian 25-8, 25-21. QND will be gunning for its fifth championship in school history.
"We didn't think we were going to get this far, but we did," Hummert said.