ATTICA - If you were looking for drama in Thursday night's Division III district semifinals, you'd have been disappointed.
Upper Sandusky and Mohawk eased through their respective opponents in three games, setting up a 3 p.m. Saturday clash for the district championship here.
Upper Sandusky, ranked sixth in Division III, was charged with taking down the team right ahead of it: No. 5 Huron.
But the Rams didn't have much trouble with the Tigers. Behind Taylor Graboski's nine kills in the first game, Upper Sandusky took control right away and wasn't challenged until the third game. It downed Huron 25-21, 25-15, 25-18.
"I don't think it was an individual effort, I think it was a whole team effort," Graboski said of her strong Game 1. "Everyone behind us, our blocking was great, our defense was picking up everything. It was just a great team effort that set the tone."
Graboski finished the match with 17 kills. But after the first game, the scoring was spread out.
Which is just how Upper Sandusky coach Matthew McConnaughey wanted it.
"One thing we wanted to do was, we wanted to establish Taylor so their block would commit," McConnaughey said. "Once that started to happen, then you saw, like, Kalene [Johnson], my outside hitter, and Jessi [Holly]... people would be 1-on-1 or 1-on-none. That's what we were trying to do, is split their block."
But the Rams really took control of the match in the second game, when Upper Sandusky, already leading 7-4, went on an 11-0 run. Emma Smith served during the stretch, picking up an ace and keeping the Tigers off balance with her serves.
"Emma had two runs with her floater serves, and that was huge," McConnaughey said. "Most kids that play volleyball now, especially that play club, see only top-spin serves, or mostly, more like a jump-float, which is different than what Emma does. Emma stands and does a hard floater, and my girls will even say - I have a kid who's a JV kid that I have serve at them - that's a harder serve. They don't want that. They'd rather have a 6-2 girl do a jump serve and crush it at them than have to figure out where that floater's gonna go."
Huron coach Don Wood said Smith gave his team problems.
"We played a couple of balls that were long, and it seemed like every time after that happened, she ran a couple more points," Wood said. "So yeah, it was effective. That floater really played games with our serve-receive."
Huron rebounded after the first two games to take a lead for much of the third. At one point in Game 3, the Tigers led 15-11.
But then Johnson took over, lining four kills in a 6-2 run that knotted the game at 17. Holly killed the next point to give the Rams a lead, one they didn't relinquish.
"Huron is a very good team, but I feel like we just outplayed them today," McConnaughey said.
In the night's second match, Mohawk proved too much for Margaretta, which came into play with a 10-13 record. Mohawk won 25-21, 25-15, 25-17.
The Warriors (21-3) built a 19-7 lead in the opener after a Julie Adelsperger kill, then watched as Margaretta went on a 10-1 run.
But Mohawk responded with back-to-back kills from Sheyanne Wilhelm and Kasey Adelsperger to make it 22-17. Margaretta made it 23-21 on a Kasey Parkhurst ace, but Mohawk clinched the game on kills by Clara and Julie Adelsperger.
Margaretta coach Sara Sage said her team's late run in the first game made her hopeful.
"I thought after we had the momentum going, it was going to continue into the second [game], the third, the fourth and so on," she said.
"That was very important," Mohawk coach Eric Hoover said. "We let them get confidence, we let them get a little momentum because we didn't finish strong in the first set. We had to go out early and get on them."
The second game was close until the Warriors, up 13-11, went on a 12-3 run to put it away.
In the third game, Mohawk recovered from a 4-0 deficit and took a 15-14 lead on an Aubrie Flood kill. The Warriors still could not shake the Polar Bears until a final surge in which they scored six of seven points to advance.
"I think we kind of realized this could be it," Kasey Adelsperger said. "I think we put it all out there tonight, and that really helped us."
She certainly did that, with 17 kills. Julie Adelsperger lined 12.
Mohawk opened its regular season with the Rams on Aug. 25, losing in three games.
Kasey Adelsperger said Mohawk would be prepared for the rematch.
"Upper, they have a lot of big blocks, which also means they should have a lot of holes out there," she said. "We have to play smart and be creative with what we do and not just pound it, because we know they could possibly block it, and that's not going to be good."