STREATOR — Schlarman Academy senior Jordan Marganski admitted the Hilltoppers felt a little weary walking into the Woodland High School gymnasium on Saturday night.
A year ago, the Hilltoppers saw their season come to a sudden conclusion with a 25-10, 25-11 loss to Mt. Pulaski in the IHSA Class 1A Super-sectional.
This year, Woodland is the host of IHSA Class 1A Sectional and Schlarman (25-3) proved to be a much different team this time around, beating Blue Ridge 25-18, 25-18 to advanced to Thursday's sectional championship match.
"We walked in and shuttered because of last year's performance was such a painful memory,'' said Marganski, who finished with a team-high 10 assists to go along with two kills and two blocks. "It was a painful memory but the atmosphere in this gym was so different this year.
"It might have been that we weren't as tense. We just didn't work ourselves up as much. We felt more comfortable on the court.''
That was hard to tell at the start of both sets. Blue Ridge jumped out to a 4-1 in the opening set and the Knights (26-9) led 6-1 in the second set.
"We didn't quite have the fire that we needed at the start of either set,'' Marganski said.
Schlarman coach Heidi Crane thought the first set problems was a little bit of jitters and the previous experience in the Woodland Gym.
"The last time we were here, we weren't as successful as we would have liked,'' Crane said. "That may have been in the back of their minds. Once they got over that, they were ready to go.
"It was partially the passing and some of it was the girls weren't be as aggressive as they needed to be. Some of the first volleys in each set were tip, tip and tip. We needed to be more aggressive.''