ELGIN | When it, all too quickly, was over, St. Francis de Sales coach Arlene Ramos shrugged.
"We knew we were going up against the Lions," she said.
Technically, they were Christians and Lions, but the allusion was apt. St. Francis de Sales was brushed aside Thursday by Harvest Christian Academy in the title game of the latter's Class 1A sectional, 25-7, 25-8.
With the win, the Lions (28-11) reached the super-sectional for the third consecutive year. They'll face defending state champ Keith Country Day at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Westminster Christian Super-Sectional.
The Pioneers finished 15-6, unbowed by the loss.
"We made the Sweet 16 in volleyball for the first time in school history," Ramos said. "We can say we wrote something in the record books."
Harvest Christian coach Kim Floyd appreciated de Sales' effort.
"I feel for them — you see all these tall girls coming out," Floyd said. "But they played their hearts out, realizing they had a very good team in front of them."
Perhaps Floyd could empathize a bit. In the Lions' last two trips to the super, they've lost to the eventual state champs.
Still, it's unlikely the Lions will be shorter than their next foe. Harvest Christian was led by 6-foot-3 middle hitter Sydney Doby, a Grand Valley State recruit, who had 15 kills. Freshman Mikayla Robinson (6-2) had five, while 6-0 sophomore Allie Frantz had a kill and an ace block.
There weren't many opportunities for blocks, as de Sales trailed 14-1 in the opening set before taking its first swing, which produced a kill for Aarin Adams. For much of the evening, the Pioneers were content to take the ball over on the second hit.
"Give them props, they're tall," said St. Francis de Sales' 5-3 captain, Stephanie Galan. "We're so short, we can't prepare for that."
The Pioneers relaxed a bit in the second set, Mayra Munoz producing a pair of kills. But, Doby had 10 kills in the set, including gym-rocking blasts for the evening's final two points.
Thus marked the end of Ramos' 10 years at the helm of the Pioneers program. She's taking a post in athletic administration next year.
"My 10 years, my 10 seniors," she said. "I'm glad I went out with them."
Galan, one of the 10, will have to work her way up to glad.
"I'm sad we lost," she said, "and I'm said because of the girls. We basically grew up the last four years together, playing volleyball."