BELOIT — It took a moment for the Blackhawks to find their footing.

Once they got in a groove, the team revved things up and never peered back.

The second-seeded Fort Atkinson girls volleyball team defeated third-seeded Waterford 19-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-18 in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Beloit Memorial High School on Thursday.

“I am unbelievably proud and impressed by how they handled themselves in the last three sets,” Fort Atkinson girls volleyball coach Liz Colver said. “Coming into the match in general, it was a different match and atmosphere with having sectionals on the line.

“It took them a beat to get into their groove and lock it in. Once they shook that, it was just game on.”

Fort senior Callie Krause served 11 aces, adding 15 assists.

“Callie was a beast at the service line,” Colver said. “You’d think she does that just against the opponent, but she does that against her own teammates. She does it when I have to hop into service receive with them. She wants to make you move, make you hit the ground and loves the challenge. Anywhere I give her on the court, she can make adjustments whether it’s short, deep or to the corners, she executed it to a T tonight. I don’t think she missed one zone. I don’t think we get those big advantages and those big leads without her.”

The Blackhawks reach their first sectional final since 2015 and face top-seeded Burlington in Saturday’s sectional final at Beloit Memorial HS at 7 p.m.

Krause served a pair of aces to open the second set. Shortly after, sophomore Andi Spies, who had a team-leading 24 kills and 17 assists, contributed an ace of her own, upping the lead to 7-3. Krause had two more aces later in the set, staking Fort to a 19-8 advantage.

Waterford led early in the third set but an ace by Blackhawk senior Alex Theriault gave Fort its first edge, 10-9. Moments later, Fort capped off a 7-0 run to pull ahead by three. It was nip and tuck for a bit before a Spies produced consecutive kills, leaving the score at 17-15 in favor of Fort, which went on a 7-2 run to close out the set and grab hold of momentum for good.

Krause went back to the service line to open the fourth set, adding two more aces while helping the Blackhawks go up 6-0. Fort led by as nine points in the set, cruising to a seven-point win as the Fort players, crowd and student section let off a monstrous roar after a Waterford hitting error ended the match.

“Serving wise, we had a great night,” Colver said. “Our goal was to take them out of system, challenge their setter to have to track down balls and put up balls to other hitters. We executed that really well. Callie Krause and Andi Spies on the back line got quite a few aces for us. We don’t expect that but love when it happens. They gave us an advantage with getting us a few leads there, helping also to finish the game in set three to put us into set four.”

It was a team effort for Fort to move within a game of the state tournament.

“Everyone on our team stepped up tonight,” Colver said. “Waterford has two really good swings. They can place the ball at different tempos and all over the court. Our defense had to make the adjustment. Without getting the ball up to our setter, we can’t run the offense that we do.

“In general, this win was a full six-rotation game. Our team did everything they could to keep the ball alive, played scrappy, put blocks up and it just all came together to take that last set.”

Senior Hope Heagney had two blocks for Fort, junior Alyssa Heagney registered 10 kills and junior Kendall Garant finished with 34 digs.

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