FAIRBURY -- Meridian hopes to get back to the Class D1 State Volleyball Championship match again this year and their quest got off to a good start Monday night.
The Mustangs opened postseason play by winning the D1-2 Subdistrict hosted by Fairbury High School. They swept Deshler in the first round before fending off a pesky Bruning-Davenport-Shickley team in five sets in the subdistrict final 23-25, 25-15, 25-10, 21-25, 15-12.
With the win, Meridian advances to Thursday's district final against the winner of Tuesday night's D1-1 Subdistrict Final between Johnson-Brock and Diller-Odell.
BDS is No. 3 in the Class D1 wildcard rankings behind Johnson-Brock and Meridian, so Meridian head coach Bob VanWesten wasn't surprised Monday's match went the distance.
"I was hoping we wouldn't have to go to a fifth set, but other than Johnson-Brock, BDS is the best team we've played this year," VanWesten said. "We've beat them twice before, but they were really competitive games. We knew it would be tough."
BDS jumped out to an early 10-4 lead in the first set, forcing a Meridian timeout. The Mustangs slowly climbed back into the game and eventually tied it at 16-16.
Meridian led 19-17 at one point, but BDS rallied back to lead 23-21 and were able to hold off the Mustangs for the 25-23 win.
The Mustangs bounced back in the second set and jumped out to an 11-5 lead, prompting a timeout by the Eagles. BDS got back to within three points at 11-8 and 12-9, but never closer as Meridian went on to win 25-15.
The third set was all Mustangs. They motored out to a 13-4 lead and never looked back on their way to the 25-10 win, which gave them a 2-1 lead in the match.
BDS wouldn't go away easy. In a tight set from start to finish, the Eagles were able to score four of the last six points to win 25-21, forcing a fifth and decisive set.
The fifth set was close, but Meridian held a slight advantage throughout. They were able to maintain that advantage and eventually win 15-12, claiming the match 3-2.
"(BDS) passed the ball really well that first set," VanWesten said. "We knew we had to break that up and we did a really good job the next two sets, but in the fourth set they started getting the ball passed again. That was kind of the whole game -- whoever passed better was going to win."
Rylee Pieper had 14 kills for the Mustangs while Halle Pribly had 12 kills, Josiee Sobotka had nine kills, Lauren DeLord had seven kills, Hailey Schafer had five kills and Erin Johnson had three kills. Johnson had 38 assists in the match.
"Erin does a great job distributing and we got a lot out of our middles tonight," VanWesten said. "That really helped us on our outside, so we had five hitters really doing their job tonight and Erin does a great job distributing it to them."
Defensively, DeLord had seven blocks while Pribyl had two blocks and Schafer, Johnson and Josiee Sobotka had one block each. Johnson had 43 digs, Pribyl had 38 digs and Pieper and Jaicee Sobotka had 27 digs each.
VanWesten said having a tough five-set match may be just what his team needed.
"Going to a fifth set tests your nerves," VanWesten said. "This may be the best thing that could have happened to us. These were the first two sets we've lost in October, so it was nice to have this test before we get into the district final and state."
Meridian (29-1) awaits the winner of Johnson-Brock and Diller-Odell Thursday night. Johnson-Brock (29-1) dealt Meridian their only loss of the season in the championship game of the MUDECAS Tournament. They also defeated Meridian in the Class D1 State Championship match last year.
No matter the outcome Thursday night, both Johnson-Brock and Meridian will be in the state tournament field due to their wildcard points.
The Eagles have to take care of business against Diller-Odell first on Tuesday, but VanWesten said his team welcomes another chance at playing Johnson-Brock.
"It's fun every time we play them," VanWesten said. "It's always a battle. We didn't give them our best shot at MUDECAS and we hope we can now. We've gotten better and I'm sure they have too. So we'll see."
Griffins looking for upset of Johnson-Brock
The Diller-Odell volleyball team played themselves into the D1-1 Subdistrict final.
The Lady Griffins (20-11) played top-seeded Johnson-Brock (30-1) Tuesday night, but that game wasn't over by press time Tuesday night.
Diller-Odell advanced by sweeping Humboldt-Table Rock-Steinauer 3-0.
Johnson-Brock advanced by beating Tri County in three sets in the semifinals 3-0. The Lady Trojans reached the semifinals by sweeping Pawnee City.
HTRS, Tri County and Pawnee City's seasons all come to an end after their losses Monday night.
In Class D2-1, Sterling (14-16) reached the subdstirct final by defeating Cornerstone Christian in four sets, but fell to Falls City Sacred Heart in the subdistrict final.
The Irish also eliminated Lewiston in the first round with a three set win.
In the C2-5 Subdistrict, second-seeded Freeman (19-11) advanced to the championship with a five set win over third-seeded Fillmore Central. They played top-seeded Thayer Central in the championship Tuesday night, but that match wasn't over by press time.
Southern was eliminated from the C2-5 Subdistrict after their first round loss to Thayer Central.
Fairbury will play for the C1-1 Subdistrict Championship after their victory over Falls City Monday night in straight sets. They played top-seeded Auburn Tuesday night, but that game wasn't over by press time.
Wilber-Clatonia and Johnson County Central were both eliminated in the C1-1 Subdistrict.