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Mooseheart's Rocio Sanchez (right) hugs volleyball teammate Erin Stryker after the fourth-seeded Ramblers upset top-seeded Providence St. Mel in the IHSA Class 1A Luther North Regional semifinals.
Mooseheart senior Erin Stryker serves during a key nine-point scoring run in the first game of the Ramblers victory over Providence St. Mel. Stryker recorded six aces in that run.
Mooseheart freshman Abi Alade rises above the net to deliver a hit during her team's victory over Providence St. Mel. The Ramblers face host Luther North at 6 p.m. on Thursday for the Class 1A regional title.
CHICAGO, IL, Oct. 23 - In her five years as head coach of Mooseheart's volleyball program, including this season, Kristin Shuman was perfect in the opening round of the postseason.
What hadn't happened was a second-round win, and that changed on Tuesday when the No. 4-seeded Ramblers upset top seed Providence St. Mel 25-9, 25-15 in the semifinals of the IHSA Class 1A Luther North Regional.
"I was anxious all day, really pumped up," Shuman said. "I know these girls wanted to do this badly. And they got out and they grabbed it."
Mooseheart (3-15) advances to play either the host Wildcats on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the regional title match, another milestone in the history of the Ramblers' program under Shuman's tutelage. Luther North defeated Chicago Hope Academy 25-13, 25-8 in Tuesday's second semifinal.
"I want it so badly for them to get it," Shuman said. "Even for them to get to this point is outstanding. They're playing so well and peaking at the right time."
As in its opening-round victory over Islamic Foundation, Mooseheart's play was based on its solid serving, and senior Erin Stryker was the key to the Ramblers taking the first game. Taking over with her team leading 6-3, Stryker served her team to a 15-3 lead - with six aces coming during that run.
"Our serve is the key," Shuman said. "If you have a good serve, you're going to do well. (Stryker), she was swinging for the fences tonight. They were all going over and in. She wanted this badly tonight and her serves were phenomenal."
The teams traded points until sophomore Madison Hart served out the game - the final two points were aces.
The Knights held early leads in the second game, though the final tie of the contest came at 3-3. While none of the Ramblers had a serving run on the order of Stryker's first-game performance. But the lead slowly built and Stryker took the lead to 15-5 before the top seed rallied.
The lead dwindled to 20-15 before the Ramblers pushed for the overall match victory.
"I called timeout to hopefully calm them down, and I think it did," Shuman said. "Once we got back into our swing, they were fine."
With Providence St. Mel sending over a series of free balls, Mooseheart was able to run its offense. That meant setter Jasmine Martinez was in the spotlight, and she did not make many errors.
"That's been a thing for us," Shuman said. "If we can get the ball to our setter, she will set it and we will hit. She's very consistent and she very rarely says 'help' for someone to come and get to the ball for her. She sees her players, knows which one is the closest and best to hit, and she gets it to them."
And on the occasions when the Ramblers had to dig the ball from the floor, Rocio Sanchez, Hart and Stryker got onto the floor. Shuman said that even plays that weren't officially digs were important defensively.
"They had some great saves, whether they were digs or they were scrambles that they got up in key moments," Shuman said. "We only had a couple that hit the floor. Overall, they did great."