Since joining the South Platte Valley Association in 2008, the Maxwell volleyball team has had trouble finding success in its conference tournament.But the Lady Wildcats are in the semifinals after beating Sutherland 20-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-21 on Thursday at the McGahan Activities Center.
"It feels pretty good to make it to Saturday in the SPVA tournament," said Maxwell coach Lori Mau. "Anytime we can get confidence against one of those teams, it helps. But the credit goes to the girls for their effort. They really left it out on the floor by diving for balls and it was nice to see that."
The first set was back and fourth between the two teams until Sutherland took a 21-19 lead when Maxwell committed a net violation.
The Lady Sailors (7-16) then scored the next three points to get the first setpoint. Maxwell (13-10) fought it off for one play before committing a service error to give Sutherland the set.
"What we saw in the first set was more from our mistakes," Mau said. "We try to win each point and you can't be hesitant. That's what we started to do in the first set."
The Lady Wildcats got out to a 9-5 lead in the second set after Kayla Stenger served for four straight points.
Maxwell led as much as 17-11 before Sutherland came storming back. The Sailors tied the score at 20 all after a kill by Kenzie White.
But Tracy Blake responded with two straight kills for the Wildcats. Sutherland responded by winning two out of the next three plays to tie at 23.
On the pivotal point, Josie Cox made a block to give the Lady Wildcats their first setpoint. Blake then served up an ace on the following play to even the match up.
In the third set, the Sailors scored the first four points with White serving.
Sutherland led as much as 10-5. But they were soon overtaken by Maxwell. The Lady Cats rallied off seven straight points with Blake serving to go up 17-14.
"When we got back and took the lead after being down 4-0 was a big boost for us," Mau said. "(Blake) did a great job of serving. She served to the players I wanted her to serve to. To be that accurate with the jumpserve takes a lot of talent."
In the fourth set, the Wildcats jumped ahead 10-5 and never really looked back. The trio of Cox, Blake and Anna Crane proved to be too much for the Lady Sailors to handle and Maxwell closed it out against the defending SPVA tournament champions.
Maxwell held on to the lead and finished strong with Blake getting kills on each of the last three plays of third.
"We just kept working," Mau said. "We did a better job of serving and keying on players. We've had trouble with that before so it was nice to see. We were also smart hitting the ball and we put it where we needed to."
Maxwell advances to the semifinals on Saturday where it will play top seed North Platte St. Pat's at 11 a.m.