VANDALIA, Ill. — On the outside, Mater Dei sophomore Riley Kleber appears cool, calm and confident.
"She doesn't feel (pressure), she just plays," Knights coach Chad Rakers said.
In reality, Kleber battles the butterflies on a regular basis.
"Sometimes it's really hard for me to relax," Kleber said. "But I'm working on it."
Kleber brushed aside the nerves with little difficulty on Friday night.
The 5-foot-8 middle hitter pounded home a match-high 10 kills to lead Mater Dei to a decisive 25-11, 25-8 win over Fairfield in the Class 2A Vandalia Super-Sectional match at Vandalia High.
The Knights (30-9) advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2014 with one of their most dominating performances of the season.
With Kleber excelling on both sides of the net, Mater Dei needed just 39 minutes to record its fifth successive win.
The Breese-based school will face St. Joseph's Ogden (34-4) at noon on Friday in the semifinal round of the state tournament at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Kleber has been on fire of late. She recorded a then season-best eight kills in a two-set sectional title win over Pinckneyville on Wednesday.
Just 48 hours later, she was even more deadly.
"Something about these big games really gets to me and I get really excited," Kleber said. "It makes me want to work even harder."
Kleber added six service points and two blocks to a strong all-around performance.
"She was hitting every single ball down," said junior setter Jessie Timmermann, who handed out 17 assists. "No one could stop her. I just kept feeding her because they couldn't stop her."
Added sophomore hitter Tori Mohesky, "It just kicked in for her."
Kleber turned heads by pounding home three successive highlight-reel kills to start the second set. She finished the match with another thunderous hit off a sharp serve from Timmermann.
"She's growing in those (big) moments," Rakers said. "It's really, really exciting to see."
Mater Dei turned in a near-flawless performance from start to finish. Mohesky added four kills. Libero Audrey Lampe led the defensive charge with 12 digs.
The Mules (37-3) never scored more than two points in a row the entire contest.
"They were just so much faster than us," Fairfield coach Chet Snyder said. "They played at a high speed."
Senior Rylee Sudholt got the attack rolling by serving four successive points out of the gate. Timmermann's well-placed tip highlighted the run.
Fairfield got to within 7-3 behind the hitting of Jacklyn Simms before the Knights reeled off 10 of the next 12 points to regain control. Kleber served five winners. Myah Helmkamp added a hit and Sally Albers chipped in with a block.
Lampe's serve kick-started another blitz that ended with a set-clinching drive from Kleber.
The Knights were virtually unstoppable in the nightcap. A double block from Timmermann and Mohesky pumped the lead to 18-7 and set the stage for another Kleber kill.
"Getting to state has been our goal since the start of the season, so we had to come out ready tonight," Mohesky said. "We came out and did our thing."
Rakers will be looking for his second state championship to go with six from his father Fred, the undisputed godfather of the program, who passed away in 2013.
"It's going to be really nice being back in Bloomington in November, and still playing in November," Rakers said. "Now, I can wink at Dad. He's smiling, I'm smiling."