Never in doubt.
That was the theme Thursday night for the Hamilton girls volleyball team, which took control from the start and dominated en route to a 3-0 sweep of visiting Peoria Centennial in the quarterfinals of the Division I state tournament.
The No. 2-seeded Huskies never trailed in the first or the third sets, using their size to overpower the No. 7-seeded Coyotes at the net. A front-line rotation of seniors Lauren Jacobsen, Brittany Thomas, Cedar Young - all 6-foot tall or above - plus junior Tianna Matthews and sophomore Emilee Dawson, consistently blocked or altered Centennial's kill attempts and put away their own, and the result was an impressive win that Hamilton coach Sharon Vanis called a "complete game."
"Our girls put it together on the right night," Vanis said.
The Huskies (38-4) had it together early. After a back-and-forth start to the opening set in which Hamilton led 3-2 and 4-3, a 7-1 run followed by an 8-0 run gave the home team a commanding 19-5 lead.
The final points were a formality, as a pair of Centennial rallies weren't nearly enough in a 25-10 Hamilton win.
It was a stark contrast to the Huskies' first-round win, which featured a closer-than-expected 25-22 first-set win over 15th-seeded Mountain Pointe. Jacobson, one of the team's senior leaders, promised this one would be different.
"She said it wouldn't happen again," Vanis said of Jacobson. "We came out and played one of our best games right away."
While the dominating start set the stage for the sweep, Centennial didn't go down easily. The Coyotes (24-9) took their first lead early in the second set, getting two thundering kills to make it 3-0 and battling from there to maintain an 11-10 lead. But another Hamilton run swung the momentum, as the Huskies ran off six straight points to make it 16-10.
Again, Centennial fought back, tallying five of the next seven points to cut the deficit to 18-16. Two kills from Jacobson allowed Hamilton to extend the lead to 22-18, but the Coyotes responded with a 3-0 run to get back to within one at 22-21 and force Hamilton into a timeout. Whatever was said in the timeout worked, as Hamilton came out with a kill by Young and a Jacobsen ace sandwiched around a Centennial service error to take three straight points and the set at 25-19.
The third set was just as convincing as the first, with the Huskies cruising to a 25-11 win. After a 2-2 start, Hamilton used another big run - this one of the 12-2 variety - to take a 14-4 lead that was never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
Freshman Olivia Hallaran tallied an ace while serving out the final three points. Matthews was the catalyst in the third set with two kills and a block during the clinching run.
"They battled us tough in the second game. The third game we controlled pretty well," Vanis said. "Our middles came through for us. We got a much better game from Tianna. She didn't play well on Tuesday but was solid (Thursday)."
Thomas, also a middle blocker, led Hamilton with 13 kills. Jacobsen added 12 while Young and Dawson finished with six apiece. In back, setter Roxanne Lake racked up 34 assists and senior libero Alexa Saba tallied eight digs while starting numerous Hamilton rallies.
A year after losing in the quarterfinals, the Huskies will move on to the semifinals to face third-seeded Xavier - a team Hamilton beat in all three matches in the regular season - on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Mesquite H.S.
For that, Vanis thanked the group that experienced last year's loss and put together an all-around dominant performance Thursday night that has the team poised to take the next step this year.
"The seniors, the senior leadership, showed," Vanis said.