If the Hopkinton girls’ volleyball team celebrated a point Wednesday by coming together in a circle, lifting their arms with their hands pointed forward, and letting out a low-pitched yell, chances are Kate Powers just had a block.
The 5-foot-10-inch sophomore middle had five of them, to go along with five kills, turning defense into offense as the second-seeded Hillers swept third-seeded Algonquin, 25-17, 25-20, 25-18 at Framingham High to advance to the Division 1 Central/West final for the second time in three seasons.
“I think the game really slowed down for me today, and I think I was able to see where [Algonquin’s] middles set up really well,” Powers said.
Hopkinton (20-0) will play either No. 1 seed Needham or No. 5 Concord-Carlisle in Saturday’s final at Wellesley High.
Hopkinton was without senior setter/right side hitter Angie Grabmeier, who injured her ankle before the postseason. But the Hillers balanced their offense between Powers and juniors Cadyn Boyce and Mirabella Paolucci, who had eight kills apiece.
“This team is playing a lot more older than they have been,” Hopkinton coach Margie Grabmeier said. “They’re more seasoned.”
Algonquin (17-3) led early in the third set, which had eight ties. Hopkinton took just its second lead of the set on a kill from junior Amelia Senseney to go up 16-15. Algonquin tied it 17-17 on a Melissa Dai ace, but Hopkinton went an 8-1 run to close out the match, clinched by Boyce’s final kill.
Senior libero Morgan Allen had 16 digs for Hopkinton.
Needham 3, Concord-Carlisle 1 — Olu Ajayi remembered what she was thinking when she got one last set from Daly Johnson.
“This is the best game of my volleyball career,” Ajayi said. “My volleyball career is not ending tonight.”
It did not end.
Needham’s senior middle smashed the match-clinching kill to the floor, her 12th of the night, to give the top-seeded Rockets a 3-1 (25-19, 33-31, 24-26, 25-23) win over fifth-seeded Concord-Carlisle in the Division 1 Central-West semifinals Wendesday at Framingham High.
Needham (18-0) will play undefeated Hopkinton (20-0) in the program’s first appearance in a sectional final at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Wellesley High.
“We’ve always had skill as a program, but this year it’s just been about staying tough mentally,” Ajayi said. “I think that’s where we’ve gotten a lot of our success.”
The Rockets needed to exercise plenty of their mental muscle, winning a back-and-forth 33-31 second set to take a 2-0 lead. Concord-Carlisle (18-3) tied the set at 24-24, 25-25, 26-26, and took a lead at 27-26 before Needham continued to battle, tying the score at 30-30 on an Ajayi kill.
Junior Karen Nie (27 kills, 13 digs, .404 hitting percentage) clinched the set with a kill.
“I think I had a lot of girls with no voices after that one, from all the screaming,” Needham coach Courtney Chaloff said.
Needham had match point in the third set at 24-22 but C-C rallied for four consecutive points, ending with a Davis Farrow kill to keep the Patriots’ season alive. Again Needham had match point at 24-22 in the fourth set before coming away with the victory.
“This whole [season] has been ‘How far can I push them?” Chaloff said. “And every time I’ve pushed, they’ve responded.”
Division 1 Central/East
Boston Latin 3, Newton North 2 — Seniors Breann Clearly (24 kills, 25 digs, 7 aces) and Ashley Rooney (14 kills, 14 digs) led the way as the fourth-seeded Wildcats (14-6) defeated the two-time defending state champion and top-seeded Tigers (13-2) in a semifinal matchup at Newton North High.
Boston Latin will play King Philip in the sectional final on Saturday in Wellesley.
“They have been the best for a long time,” Latin coach Yai Kuen said of Newton North. “It was an amazing win for our team. We held our own against them and that was a good feeling.”
Division 1 South
Oliver Ames 3, Dartmouth 2 — Senior Captain Allison Kemp led the Tigers (18-4) to a South Division 1 semifinal win over the Indians (21-1) with a season high of 45 assists and she also added 12 digs & 4 aces. The Tigers advance to the final against the winner of Barnstable-Bishop Feehan on Saturday at 5 p.m. at New Bedford High.