SOUTH STREATOR - So far, what a way to go.
The St. Bede volleyball team opened its final Tri-County Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at Streator Woodland High School in South Streator, and it did so in very quick fashion.
The shorter, the better for the Lady Bruins.
No. 3-seeded St. Bede came out fast and knocked off No. 6-seeded Henry 25-11, 25-20 to set up a big showdown with No. 2-seeded Peoria Christian on Thursday night in the TCC semifinals.
Peoria Christian beat Putnam County in two games Tuesday as well.
"We want to come out on top," said St. Bede sophomore middle hitter Kayla MacDavitt, who put down a match-high nine kills against the Lady Mallards. "We're hoping to do good. We're nervous to go into the new conference because there are a lot of top teams."
St. Bede is trying to prove it's a top team in TCC, and did so with a step in the right direction against Henry.
The Lady Bruins exploded out of the gate with a 6-1 lead behind five Henry hitting errors, one Henry setting error and five points from senior Molly Scott.
The lead later ballooned to 15-6 as sophomore outside hitter Bethany Stavrakas' serve did the Lady Mallards in with five points and three aces.
St. Bede's lead moved into double digits thanks to a Scott ace, a MacDavitt block and a Stavrakas kill, and a flurry of Lady Mallard errors that sealed the deal for St. Bede in game one.
"We just have to gear up," St. Bede head coach Dawn Williams said. "We have to make a few less mistakes against Peoria Christian. This is my second year in this tournament and it is very competitive. You have to make sure you get through that first night."
Henry held the lead for the first half of the second game as the Lady Bruins seemed to struggle with the gym's lighting on their new side of the court.
Five St. Bede hitting errors and a pair of kills by Henry outside hitter Abbey Steele allowed the Lady Mallards to take a 9-6 advantage.
"We have been working a lot, trying to find some hitters," Henry head coach Rita Self said. "Obviously, we've got one hitter (Abbey Steele) who is pretty strong. We're just trying to find another one to fit in the mix right now. Hopefully, our defense can continue to hold tight a little bit longer."
St. Bede's hitters finally got to the Lady Mallard defense midway through the second game Tuesday night.
MacDavitt blocked a shot and followed it with a kill before Taylor Miller served up two aces to give the Lady Bruins their first lead of the second game at 13-12.
St. Bede never looked back.
MacDavitt sent down three kills with one block down the stretch, including the final point of the match on a set from senior Jillian Stariha to send the Lady Bruins into the semifinals against Peoria Christian.
It's a date the Lady Bruins are looking forward to - a scrap against the five-time defending TCC Tournament champions, the Lady Chargers, in St. Bede's final go-round through the conference.
"We want that game again. We lost to Peoria Christian. We want another chance at them," Williams said. "So it's exciting to have that tournament environment, that tournament atmosphere to play against a team like Peoria Christian. We're hoping to have another shot at Marquette."
Steele led Henry with seven kills and two points.
Stavrakas added six kills, six points and three aces to the win for St. Bede, and Scott led St. Bede in points with 11.
Miller set 12 assists for the Lady Bruins, and MacDavitt and Anna O'Sadnick each notched five blocks.
"It's our last year in it," Williams said of the tournament. "So we want to finish with a strong showing."
Jim Cogdal can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 139, or at email@example.com.