TRENTON, ILL. — Mater Dei volleyball coach Chad Rakers looked at his assistant coaches and asked if he should call a timeout.
The answer was a resounding, "No."
"I didn't want to call it, but I wanted to ask my assistants what they thought - and they were like, 'Nope,'" Rakers said.
That crucial save of a timeout helped Mater Dei roll to a 28-26, 25-13 win over Freeburg in a Class 3A Wesclin Sectional semifinal match on Monday at Wesclin High.
Mater Dei (28-9) will play Pinckneyville (30-8) in the sectional final at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Trenton.
Having that final timeout in his hip pocket, Rakers burned it when Freeburg threatened to take the first set when it held a 26-25 lead. That timeout enabled the Knights to right the ship.
"Everyone is going to give you their best game and what I was most proud of was how we handled it," Rakers said. "We didn't freak out, didn't get down on ourselves. We hung in there and were handling the moment - not afraid of it."
Mater Dei junior Myah Helmkamp led the way with seven kills. Junior Jessie Timmermann added 12 assists.
Freeburg coach Brooke Kloess was hoping that her team would push harder in the second set after almost stealing the opener.
"I think we gave everything we had in that first game and the girls just didn't have a whole lot left in them," Kloess said.
Senior Caroline Gagen led the Midgets (24-14) with eight kills. Myah Mense had 16 assists.
MISTAKES DOOM BREESE CENTRAL
Cris Toennies hoped that the monster of unforced errors wouldn't rear its ugly head on Monday.
But the monster made the trip to Clinton County and killed any Breese Central rally time and time again.
Breese Central's 32 unforced errors proved costly as the Cougars fell to Pinckneyville 25-22, 23-25, 25-19 in the other semifinal game.
"In games like this, we've talked about it before, you can't have those unforced errors and expect to win in the postseason," Toennies said.
Mater Dei will be looking for its first sectional championship since 2014. Pinckneyville is searching for its first-ever sectional title.
The Cougars saw a 20-16 lead evaporate due to 13 unforced errors in the first set. Those miscues and a well-timed Pinckneyville timeout nearly came back to haunt the Cougars in the second set.
Trailing 23-16, the Panthers made a near-miraculous comeback, trimming the deficit to 24-23 before Central closed the door.
"I just tried to keep them energized and keep them going," Pinckneyville coach Cathy Kohnen said. "I just reminded them of the game plan and they just got to keep swinging."
The Panthers used a stifling defense to take control in the third set. Despite 15 kills from senior and University of Nebraska-commit Abby Johnson, Breese Central (23-10-1) just couldn't muster that needed rally down the stretch.
"I think we were all tired and worn down," Johnson said. "It was just a matter of that. We were running on fumes and they had more energy, up more. They played a really good game."
Breese Central trimmed the deficit to 14-11, but four consecutive blocks by Pinckneyville essentially slammed the door on the Cougars.
"Their blocks against our offense did a really good job," Toennies said. "Anything we got past their blocks, their defense did a good job of picking up. It was hard to find anything in their defense."