CHESTERTON | In two regular-season meetings, Chesterton and Portage traded five-game victories.
Not this time. Not even close.
The host Trojans blitzed the Indians 25-17, 25-15, 25- 17, in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A Chesterton Sectional on Thursday, advancing to a Saturday semifinal against Valparaiso, a three-game winner over Michigan City.
"We made some changes and we've just gotten a lot better," Chesterton coach TR Harlan said. "You want to be playing your best at the end of the year and we are right now. It was as good a performance for three total games that we've probably had all year."
The Trojans (21-11) asserted a strong attack from the start and Portage (11-20) never seriously threatened in any of the games.
"We definitely came out with a lot of energy," Chesterton's Claire Holba said. "We were conscious of the fact that both times we went five games and that we would have to play harder. All of our hitters were really on. It was a night where we worked on some different shots because we knew they were going to be open. Our passing and setting were great so we could get those hits."
Chesterton hit Portage from all angles. Katie Urycki and Holba each banged a dozen kills and Lydia Gill put down eight as the Trojans kept the Indians on their heels all match.
"The most important thing was we passed well, probably as well as we have all year," Harlan said. "We've got some really capable hitters, but if you don't pass, you can't hit. We were able to utilize what we do best. I've been on the other side of that where a team starts to hit the ball at you a lot and there's not a lot you can do offensively. When we didn't get big swings, we were able to dictate what we wanted to do by where we hit the ball."
Kate Nowak registered 35 assists and Katie Osborn, who moved into the libero spot a few weeks ago, came up with 20 digs.
Portage got seven kills from Alicia Cieisielski and Tina Golden posted 13 assists.
"We were just a little sporadic," Indians coach Erin Plumley said. "When our passing was there, our hitting and setting weren't, and when our hitting was on, our passing was a little shaky. Chesterton came out strong. We match up really well against them. We just had trouble adjusting to their block. It happened to be their night."
In the opener, the Vikings dispatched City, 25-17, 25-18, 25-22, the third time they've swept the Wolves (6-22) in as many meetings.
"All week, our focus was on this match," Valpo coach Katie Lenard said. "I felt like we didn't necessarily present that all the time. Sometimes, we were great. Other times, we were in a little slump."
City held its own early in the first game before Valpo pulled away from an 11-11 tie. The Vikings (29-6) led from start to finish in game two, and resisted a late Wolves push in game three to close out the victory.
"Michigan City came out ready to go," Lenard said. "Parts of our game were weaker than they have been lately. That may have been something to do with it being the first night of sectionals. We'll adjust and focus for Saturday."
Sara Clark (12 kills), Kate Workman (14 digs, three aces) and Tarrah Lasky (27 assists, eight digs) led Valpo.