STERLING – Success starts in the middle and works its way out for the Sterling Golden Warriors.
Sterling set middle hitters Kiarra Harris and Jenn Rahn in the first game of Tuesday's Class 3A Sterling Regional semifinal against Mendota. The result had the Trojans reeling, which left the edges open for senior Krista Loos.
The final result was a quick 25-14, 25-13 win to advance to Thursday's championship match against rival Rock Falls.
"We can put three players across the front that are tall, quick and can really hit the ball," Sterling coach Dale Dykeman said. "We started in the middle tonight with Jenn and Kiarra doing a great job."
Rahn opened up the night with a kill set up by Sydney McCaslin. Sterling (34-2) scored seven of the first 10 points, and the rout was on. Harris had two of her six kills in the next run that allowed the lead to ballon out to 11-5.
"We definitely set the middle well early in the match," Rahn said. "That gets the other team focusing on the block, and then we move the offense to the edges."
Later in the match, Rahn slammed a kill that drilled Mendota's Kendra Willis in the face. It was only one point, but it seemed to make the Trojans' defenders think twice about coming up toward the net.
"You feel bad about it when it happens," Rahn said. "You don't want to hurt anyone, but it also gets in their head a little bit. They know we're going to bring it when we go up for a hit."
The second set became the Krista Loos show until Dykeman pulled most of the starters after the Warriors built an insurmountable lead.
Loos had seven of her nine kills and two aces in the second set.
"It was good to come out and get the lead early on and go from there," Loos said. "It was our goal to come out and set the tone for the rest of the postseason. We did that tonight. We know what we have to do."
JoEllyn Parks had six kills for Mendota.
Sterling has beaten Rock Falls twice this season: once in the first match of the season, and then again in a semifinal match at the Dixon Invitational.
Star of the match: Krista Loos, Sterling, 9 kills, 2 aces
Key performers: JoEllyn Parks, Mendota, 6 kills; Kiara Harris, Sterling, 6 kills, 1 block; Jenn Rahn, Sterling, 7 kills
Up next: Class 3A Sterling Regional semifinal - Sterling vs. Rock Falls, 6 p.m. Thursday