PARK FOREST | Illiana Christian advanced to the Sweet 16 by sweeping Bremen 25-17, 25-16 on Tuesday night in a Class 3A Rich East Sectional semifinal.
The Vikings (21-16) advance to play rival Chicago Christian in Thursday's championship match. The Knights beat Ag Science 25-20, 25-15 in the first semifinal.
A timely rotation swing in the second set and clutch serving by junior setter Hannah Wegner helped Illiana ward off the Braves.
Illiana coach Nikki Van Dyke started the set by putting 5-foot-10 right-side hitter Tessa Vant Hoff in the front row to counter Bremen's big outside hitter Jamie Duckwell.
"We knew they normally don't start her in the back row," Van Dyke said, "so we swung our rotation to let Tessa block. It was a chance we took and I felt comfortable with the move."
Bremen matched Illiana point for point in the second set until Wegner reached the service rotation. She rolled off seven straight points to give the Vikings a comfortable 16-8 lead.
During the momentum builder, Kylie VanRoekel and Tina Massey combined for a block kill and Massey added a kill from the middle.
The Braves didn't help their cause with three unforced errors.
"Coach tells us there's three areas of the court we need to dominate," VanRoekel said, "the service line, the back line and the front line."
Illiana especially dominated the back line, taking advantage of Bremen's creeping defense. The Vikings dumped and tipped several balls to the deep corners for points, including VanRoekel's dump that made it 17-11 in the second set.
"That was another one of our cheat sheet notes," Van Dyke said. "I told them to hit those deep corners."
VanRoekel finished with five kills and four blocks.
Freshman outside hitter Sydnee Van Beek contributed a solid all-around performance with three digs, three aces, a block and two kills.
"We felt a sense of urgency today," Van Dyke said. "I think it was the hype of knowing what was in store Thursday. Chicago Christian is a great team and our biggest private Christian school rival."