HENRY — Making a good first impression is always important.
Although new Tri-County Conference member Seneca has already done that on the volleyball court against many members of the league during the regular season, the Lady Irish were hoping to continue that movement during Saturday's quarterfinal match against Woodland here in the TCC Tournament at Henry-Senachwine High School.
Seneca's Grace Alley had a huge hand — literally and figuratively — in getting the third-seeded Lady Irish off in the right direction in the loop's tourney, as the senior middle hitter put on a show at the service line against the No. 6-seeded Lady Warriors. Alley reeled off an eye-popping 13 consecutive points early in the first set and had a string of eight straight points in set two to give her team solid leads as SHS advanced with a 25-13, 25-13 victory.
"(Grace) can serve," said Seneca coach Noah Champene, his club now 25-4 on the season. "She really set the tone and helped us get into a good rhythm in both sets. Her serving also made it tough for (Woodland) to really get into their offense, and we were also able to take advantage of a couple of overpasses as well.
"Lexi Greve and Hannah Berg also had really good matches for us hitting the ball, and our backline defenders were really solid."
Alley led the Lady Irish with 21 points, including nine aces, and three kills. Greve finished with 10 kills, Berg nine and Madison Bromberek four for Seneca, which now faces Marquette in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Woodland (9-16), after the loss to Seneca, fell to Midland 25-16, 25-20 in the consolation semifinals to end its tournament stay. Audrey Jenkins led the Lady Warriors with a pair of kills and two blocks, while Kaitlyn Walter had five points.
"Oh my gosh, yes, No. 3 (Alley) served fantastic," Woodland coach Ginger Walter said. "If it wasn't for her, the scores would have been a lot closer, but she was really good and got on a roll, and we just couldn't stop her.
"That first timeout I took, I was ticked off and yelling because I know we are better than what we were showing. The girls picked things up a little, but when you put yourself behind as many points as we did, it's a really tough thing to come back from. We were missing three players the last time we played Seneca and we had a couple of those girls back today, but we're still trying to find that consistency and aggressiveness that I know we can have."
The opening set was tied 2-2 when Alley took to the service line and 15-3 after she finally sent a serve just past the backline of the court. Bromberek had three kills and Greve a pair of winners in the set-changing run, with Alley posting six aces, including three in a row at one point. Woodland was able to cut the lead to as close as nine on three occasions, but a passing error and tip-kill by Berg ended a first set that saw a number a fantastic long rallies despite Alley's fine serving.
Alley's run in the second set helped the Lady Irish bust out to a 9-1 lead, and that advantage grew to 13-2 and 15-5. Woodland used a four-point service run by Kaitlyn Walter, which included an ace and block by Jenkins, to get within 15-10, but a kill from Alley, two more by Berg, then four kills from Greve finished out the set and match.
"We had subbed in a couple of girls that seemed to change the chemistry a little for us, and Woodland had a few good serves there that we had trouble with and got us off balance," said Champene of the Lady Warriors spurt in set two. "We played Woodland at home a couple of weeks ago, but they were also missing a couple of players, so they were a different team today, and I thought they played well."