That is exactly what Norwalk did on Thursday against Vermilion.
The No. 4 seed used big runs in each game to top fifth-seeded Vermilion, 25-10, 25-19, 26-24, in a Division II sectional final at Willard Middle School on Thursday.
"We came out tonight and took care of the ball in the first game," Norwalk coach Sarah Kipp said. "We were ready to play. They played that entire game from point one."
Norwalk improved to 14-10 overall and will face No. 2 Willard (16-7) in a district semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Seneca East High School. Norwalk defeated the Sailors (15-8) last Saturday in Vermilion, 17-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-17.
"We came out and talked about playing our game no matter who is on the other side of the net," Kipp said. "We want to control the ball and control our game. The girls did that. I am proud of where we are headed."
The two teams played evenly in Game 1 until Norwalk went on a run. An ace by Hillarie Habermehl cut the lead to 11-9, but Norwalk responded with the next nine points.
Claire Kelley committed an error for Norwalk to end the run, but it was only temporary. Olivia Ward had a kill, Carly Bilton served an ace, and Delaney Thomas put down a kill for a 23-10 lead. Ward added a block and Kelley blasted a kill to give Norwalk the opening game.
"Our serving and defense was tough at that point," Kipp said. "I don’t think we let anything hit the floor."
The Sailors came out with renewed energy in Game 2 and opened a 9-4 lead after three straight errors by Norwalk. Kipp called timeout and solidly regrouped her team. Norwalk won the next four points and tied the game at 11-11 when Elyse Balduff served up an ace.
Later, Vermilion clung to a 16-14 lead after a Norwalk error, but it strung together another run.
A kill and block from Thomas helped Norwalk take an 18-16 lead. Vermilion responded with the next two points, but the Norwalk won seven of the last eight points — including three straight blocks by Thomas — to take Game 2. Marie Clouse wrapped up the game with a kill down the line.
"We told the girls to get after it," Kipp said. "It was time to get after the ball and pass the ball like we have been taught to pass the ball. They did and came out of that early timeout passing the ball better."
Game 3 was even tighter as both teams played at a high level. Vermilion surged ahead 11-7 after an ace from Mary Carosella and a Norwalk error. But Norwalk put together yet another run, this one 10 points in a row that included kills from Thomas and Ward.
The Sailors did not go quietly though. Kills from Maddie Colahan and Cam Colahan helped Vermilion draw within 21-18. After a kill from Ward, the Sailors got within 22-21 only to see Kelley put down one of her seven kills for a 24-21 lead after a Vermilion error. The Sailors fended off three match points, but two errors by Vermilion sent Norwalk to victory.
"Vermilion gave us a run for our money," Kipp said. "We had stretches where we just did not take care of the ball. We had some serve receive stretches where we had some shanks. We have got to get better at that. We have to serve receive the ball a little better."
Thomas finished with nine blocks and seven kills while Mya Neuberger registered nine digs and eight kills. Ward tallied 27 assists, 11 digs, and six kills and Balduff added 14 digs. Bilton recorded six blocks and Lindsey Koenig had 12 digs.
"Delaney had a personal goal before the match to get out and close the block," Kipp said. "She did that and that is something we have been pushing her on all season."
Willard 3, Lexington 2
WILLARD — In the second match of the night, Willard topped No. 7 Lexington, 18-25, 17-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-10.
"The difference late was our pass was there and when our pass is there, our hitters can put the ball down," Willard coach Ashley Bond said. "We just have to keep the ball in system in order to do that."
The Flashes jumped out to a 4-1 lead in Game 5 after two kills from Lydia Wiers. The margin was still three points at 8-5 when Katie Gouge hit a kill and Natalie Beer smacked two kills to tie the game.
After a timeout by Willard, Wiers added two kills and a block. The Lady Lex (14-10) stayed within three points, but a kill and ace from Wiers gave the Flashes the win.
"We have a great senior class and a bunch of juniors," Bond said. "We do not have underclassmen. They have been there before. It is not like they were scared playing out there. They knew they had it."
Wiers paced Willard with 31 kills.
"Lydia Wiers is amazing," Bond said. "She is amazing because she makes her teammates better. They are not scared to play with her."
It was all Lexington early. Game 1 was tied at 16 when five straight points including kills from Amelia Moore and Sarah Malaska pushed the Lady Lex lead to 21-16. Willard drew only within four points, but two kills from Moore, coupled with an ace from Audra Kocher gave Lexington the early lead.
The Lady Lex led Game 2 from start to finish. Lexington opened a 18-10 lead after kills from Gouge and Beer. Willard fought back and was within three points once, but a net violation on the Flashes, coupled with an error by Willard pushed Lexington into the commanding lead.
Despite trailing early, Willard seemingly played better and gained more and more momentum in Game 3. Lexington jumped out to a 9-6 lead, but the Flashes ran off the next 10 points. Willard controlled the rest of the game, never leading by less than five points.
"(Moore) is a player," Bond said. "They set her front row, they set her back row. She is pretty good and we knew we had to stop her."
The Flashes carried the momentum into Game 4. Lexington again took the early lead before Willard fought back. This time, the Lady Lex led 10-7 before Willard strung together nine of the next 11 points for a 16-12 lead.
Kills from Cassidy Crawford and Chloe Wiers pushed the lead to 21-15, prompting a timeout by Lexington. The Lady Lex got within four points on three separate occasions, but an error tied the match.
Crawford added 15 kills for the Flashes. Chloe Weaver had 27 assists and Jena Adams tallied 24 assists.
"Lexington swung at us in the first two games," Bond said. "We changed a bit, starting in Game 3. We started swinging at them, rather than them swinging at us."