NEW MARTINSVILLE - Looking for the upset, Brooke battled Magnolia tooth and nail through two games Thursday night before the Blue Eagles finally took flight and disposed of the Bruins in a three-game sweep.
Senior standout Jordan Babe came up big late in the first two games and was the deciding factor in the clincher as Magnolia took big leads early in both of the first two games but had to hold on for an entertaining 26-24, 28-26, 25-5 victory on Senior Night at Magnolia High School.
The victory sends Coach Pam Chapman's girls into sectional play with a 20-9 record. The Eagles open tournament action Tuesday night at 5 p.m. at Tyler Consolidated High School against Oak Glen.
Meanwhile, Coach Lori Jackson's Brooke squad (6-21) will travel to Morgantown High School to face University High Wednesday night.
Game 1 went to the Blue Eagles, however, the Bruins made them work and fight for it the whole way. Brooke grabbed the early lead, jumping to a quick 4-1 advantage, before Magnolia finally seemed to take control at 7-6.
Magnolia led by as many five on three different occasions, before the visitors got hot thanks in large part to senior captain Ali Crawford.
But when all was said and done it was another senior who made the difference late in the game, Babe. With the Bruins up 24-23, Babe got the lead back with a pair of wicked kills and then helped pull out the 26-24 victory with a block to seal the deal.
The second game was more of the same as Brooke dug an early hole, with numerous unforced errors, trailing by as many as nine at 14-5. This time it was Kelsey Bable's turn to help bring the Bruins back late.
Bable's play at the net was a huge part of Brooke's ability to come all the way back and take the lead on a Bable kill at 24-23. The Bruins were twice sitting at game point but failed to take advantage.
Tied at 26-26, Babe's slam put Magnolia back on the brink of victory before Chapman's kill off of Babe's serve finished it off at 28-26.
The hosts had not only busted their guest's spirit, but had worn them down by the third game rolled around and it showed. Brooke took a 1-0 lead and knotted the count early at 2-2, but it was all Big Blue from that point forward.
Already leading 12-5, Babe held service for the final 13 points to cement the victory. Chapman and senior Alivia Melott were both strong at the net while Lauren Cline repeatedly set them up.
In all, Babe finished with 16 kills, 12 blocks and 22 points while Mallory Chapman added nine kills and three blocks and Lauren Cline chipped in with 50 assists.
"We beat them pretty handily earlier this year and it was Senior Night, so I think it got to us a little mentally early on," Pam Chapman said. "But we talked about getting into the flow of the game and felt we were fighting ourselves in the first two games.
"We made a good play, then we managed to mess up. But we got in a rhythm, and I believe that once we get into a rhythm we are going to be a very hard team to beat.
"Jordan (Babe) and Mallory (Chapman) are both very strong blockers and hitters and I am glad to have them both at the net. We also have a chance to do good things when they are at the net. But it really was a total team effort and that is what we have been getting from the girls.
"Now we just need to try and get ready for sectionals."
Jackson, meanwhile, mentioned that her team has played tough in games all year long, but haven't done a good job closing.
"This is kind of how our season has gone," Jackson said. "We have taken a lot of teams to five games and played others tough. But we like playing Magnolia, they are a fantastic team and we always seem to step up and play well against them.
"Serving killed us early on, with six misses in the first game and five in the second. The third game was just our front row playing scared. But I was pleased that we had some JV players step up in that second game.
"We have eight seniors, but I think some of those younger girls give us nice hope for next season."