Defensive-minded Bombers earn spot in highly anticipated sectional championship


Macomb coach Briana Rexroat, center, hugs one of her players as the Bombers celebrate going into a timeout during the second set of Monday's Class 2A sectional semifinal victory over Sherrard at Farmington, ill. | Matt Schuckman photo

FARMINGTON, Ill. — Taking the court under the watchful eyes of a rival and future foe could have been slightly unnerving.

Facing an opponent looking for retribution could have, too.

The Macomb volleyball team ignored it all and delivered a prime in-the-moment effort Monday night, dispatching Sherrard 25-15, 25-14 in the semifinals of the Class 2A Farmington Sectional and setting up an anticipated rematch with Quincy Notre Dame.

“I liked how we came out ready to go,” Macomb senior setter Kaitlyn Robinson said. “We were told we were going to have a target on our back after beating (Sherrard) last year. So we knew we had to come in with a lot of energy.”

The Bombers beat the Tigers in straight sets a year ago in the regional championship before beating Princeton in the sectional semifinals and losing to QND in straight sets in the sectional championship.

Macomb earned a bit of revenge by beating QND in three sets at The Pit on October 5, creating fervor for a sectional showdown.

The Raiders (33-3) and the Bombers (33-3) square off at 6 p.m. Wednesday with the winner advancing to the Princeton Super-Sectional.

“So ready, so ready for the next game,” Macomb senior libero Sarah Stufflebeam said. “We knew we had the chance to come back here Wednesday, but tonight we had to focus in and come ready to play. Now we’re on to Wednesday. We’re ready for the challenge.”

Finally, the Bombers can think about it. They have had to put it on the backburner for nearly a month.

“Within five minutes of (beating QND), people were like, ‘So you’ll see them again in the sectional championship,’” Macomb coach Briana Rexroat said. “I was like, ‘We have a season first and we have to get there first.’ We’ve been trying to remind ourselves of that each game and each practice. One step at a time.”

Monday night’s step was a critical one because it showcased how well the Bombers can play defensively, all while having the Raiders watch the first set following their semifinal victory.

“Our defense came out faster than it usually has,” Rexroat said. “Sometimes it takes a whole rotation around to get an understanding of how they are going to hit at us. The defense came out tonight and right away made two scramble plays and I was really impressed with that.”

A sense of pride comes with playing defense at a high level.

“No matter what the offense is doing, we had to come out strong defensively,” Stufflebeam said. “Defense wins games. We know that.”

So does the ability to keep the ball in play and set up the attack.

“We did a really nice job with our serve receive and our serve,” Rexroat said. “If we can’t serve aggressively without missing, we’re not going to be in these games from here on out. So I was really happy with how we served, and I was really happy with how we received the ball and got into our offense.”

It enabled the Bombers to develop an immediate rhythm.

“We came out strong in the beginning and just kept going,” senior outside hitter Kennedy Adair said. “We definitely found our rhythm. Our defense was really strong in the beginning, and I’m really proud of that.”

The challenge is to play at that level at least one more time.

“We get in to practice, buckle down and keep a strong mindset,” Adair said of preparing for QND.

The Bombers know the atmosphere should be electric, especially after seeing how enthusiastic the crowd was Monday night.

“It was so loud in here,” Robinson said. “So I’m ready for both student sections to go at it.”

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