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Knights upset #5 CPU to move into Regional Final
October 29, 2018

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The Knights volleyball squad demonstrated they simply aren't ready for their season to end as they battled fifth-ranked Center Point-Urbana on their home court in three intense sets, coming out on top 25-21, 25-22 and 26-24 to advance to the Regional Finals.

Union faced a daunting task of defending against a CPU front row that consisted of junior Emily Kono with 310 kills on the season, and 6'-6" Delaney McSweeney with 300 kills and one of the highest efficiency percentages in the state. Rather than shrink away from the challenge, the Knights took advantage of opportunities with McSweeney out and played smart.

"[McSweeney] is a legit player and she'd get her hits, so we wanted to limit her opportunities," coach Brian Jesse said. "CPU was actually a good matchup for us because we hit a lot backside. When she stopped blocking strong side, we went to Jazz and Megan on the attack."

For a majority of the first set, neither team could establish a lead over three points, with each serve, tip or kill vitally important with such slim leads. Union finally managed a four point advantage late in the game only to see it taken quickly away by the home team. Serving proved to be the difference as the Stormin' Pointers struggled with serve receive at critical moments. A kill error and ball out of bounds gave the Knights the set 25-21.

"Our mindset was to leave the court with no regrets, put everything out on the court," sophomore Sophie Winkelpleck said. "The seniors talked in the locker room before the game about having no regrets and leaving everything out on the floor tonight."

CPU had a similar mindset as they took early control of the second set to prompt a timeout from Jesse as the Knights were down 10-7. A tip by Belle Weber put Union back in the match as the Knights grinded out a tough 22-19 lead due in part to an ace by Allie Carty. Weber delivered the last kill as the Pointers closed the gap thanks to a few errors on Union's part. A 25-22 decision in favor of the Knights gave them the second set and a 2-0 advantage, but mistakes were piling on both sides. For Winkelpleck, keeping her cool meant repeating one phrase in her head.

"Get the next point," Winkelpleck said. "If you make a mistake, you have to focus on that next point. We lifted each other up throughout. I'm proud of this team for how hard we are working."

Despite the lead in sets, not a single Knight was ready to relax, let alone their head coach.

"I knew they would rally after those two sets," Jesse said. "I'd seen a lot of their scores and watched tape on them. They had the capability to play at a high level and I knew they would come back to challenge us."

The Stormin' Pointers ralied once again, sold on defending their home court in an elimination game. CPU again took an early lead, this time up by 11-7 before Jesse called timeout to stop the bleeding.

"We had to keep our serving away from their libero because she is pretty solid," Jesse said. We kept the pressure on them and wore them down. Their passing was good at times and other times we took advantage."

As with the second set, Union responded with a run of their own to tie 12-12 before CPU rallied, aided by some Union mistakes to give the Pointers a 20-17 lead.. The set grew intense as the Knights fought for a 23-23 tie and the two squads traded missed serves. With Union suddenly up 25-24, Winkelpleck approached the serving line and delivered an ace to win the set and the match in three sets over one of 3A's top team on their own home court.

"I remember trying to zone everything else out and thinking 'Sophie, you know how to serve the ball, just get it over and in,'" Winkelpleck said. "By the grace of God, I got that ace and I'm super happy right now. I'm going to be honest, I wouldn't have believed we could win in three sets against such a tough opponent. I feel we came out with the right mindset to win and going hard for every single point. We know CPU is a really good team and had a talented girl in the middle. We still knew we could do this and believed in each other."

Jayden Jolley led the way offensively with 12 kills and two blocks, followed Megan Carty with 11 kills. Jasmyn Bush continued to stuff the stat sheet with 11 kills, 11 digs, four blocks and went 14 of 14 serving. Weber tallied 10 kills, 10 digs, four block, went 10 of 14 serving and had two aces. Hannah Gates and Allie Driscol combined for 39 of Union's 40 assists in the win. Allie Carty recorded 11 digs and went 7 of 9 serving. Cylie McNeal did her damage serving as she hit 12 of 13 and had three aces. The game hero, Winkelpleck, also recorded three aces and went seven of eight serving.

"Jayden was great for us tonight," Jesse said. "Megan, Jazz and Jayden all were very solid. Belle wasn't at her best tonight coming back, but now we have more time to get her healthy. Allie Carty was good for us tonight with some good touches," Jesse said. "All our back row players played hard for us. We kept the ball alive on huge plays and kept pressure on CPU's best hitters."

The Knights are 29-14 on the season after defeating quality opponents in Waterloo Columbus and CPU to reach the Regional Final against Clarion-Goldfield-Dows (26-8) on Monday, Oct. 29 at Hudson with the match set to start at 7 p.m.

"When we first saw the bracket, we knew there were teams we could beat, but the bad news is we have to play three good teams in a row for wins," Jesse said. "We're two-thirds there, now let's get another good effort to beat Clarion."

For updates during the Regional match-up on Monday, follow @cjeilers on Twitter and get the final score on our Facebook page.

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