HOPE — Saturday afternoon’s semifinal showdown between Hauser and Southwestern (Shelby) was supposed to be the de facto sectional championship, but the Jets had one more match to win Saturday night on their home floor.
Hauser started out slow in the title match against Rising Sun before finding its rhythm to post a 25-19, 25-10, 25-18 win to claim its ninth consecutive sectional title.
“That was so intense this afternoon, and there was such buildup between our two teams, we did just come out a little flat tonight,” Hauser coach Jeff Case said. “I was a really worried about that. Rising Sun is a really quality team, and we played them earlier in the year and it was really tight. But we cleaned it up a little bit and started playing better.”
The Jets jumped on Southwestern early in the semifinal, but had to overcome setbacks in Sets 3 and 4 to escape with a 25-20, 25-14, 26-28, 29-31, 15-13 victory. It was the third time this season the Spartans had taken Hauser to the brink.
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The Jets led for most of the second set before failing to win two match points that would have ended the match. They had three match points in the fourth set before Southwestern managed to force a fifth set.
“I was really concerned about going to a fifth set after losing 3 and 4, especially the way we started in that one, but they came back and stuck with it,” Case said. “They kept their composure.”
Hauser didn’t lead the entire fifth set until they took a 13-12 lead. The Jets scored two of the final three points to advance to the sectional final.
“It was a great match, great competition,” Case said. “Either team could have won it easily. Honestly, I thought they had us. They had good separation in that fifth set.”
The final lacked such drama, although the Jets (20-14) did led the Shiners hang around early in Hauser’s 25-19, 25-10, 25-18 victory.
After a close first set, Rising Sun led 3-2 in the second set before the Jets earned a sideout to tie it. Shelby Fugate then served nine consecutive points to open a 12-3 lead.
After Hauser finished off that set, Case substituted liberally in the third set, using his entire bench.
“(The semifinal) was a really hard game,” Fugate said. “It was a really fun game, too. I think we were a little tired (tonight), but we came through.”
Hannah Johnson led the Jets with 20 kills five blocks and two aces in the title game. Aunaka Wasil recorded 30 assists, Kylie Lock notched 13 digs and Fugate and Melanie Taylor each served two aces.
Also for Hauser, Fugate pounded nine kills, and Fugate and Taylor each tallied 12 digs. Marnie Schwarzkpof added five kills, and Abby Branum had four assists.
In the semifinal, Johnson led the Jets with 28 kills, five blocks and four aces. Wasil recorded 49 assists and 18 digs, while Taylor notched 35 digs. Lock added nine kills and 27 digs, and Olivia Wright had six kills.
“It was pretty tough trying to beat the same team three times in a row,” Johnson said. “We won the first two (sets) and kind of let them back in, but we kept fighting. We lost a lot of our intensity (tonight), but we still pulled out the win.”
The wins put the Jets, who advanced to last year’s Class A state title game, in Saturday’s Morristown Regional, where they will play Bloomfield in the semifinals at 10 a.m. The regional championship is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“This is the toughest one we’ve had since we came back to 1A,” Case said. “So this one feels really good. The feeling of winning this feels like winning regional last year.”