BEREA -- The first time he meet with his team this summer, Madison Southern coach Jeremy Grant had a serious question for his players.
He wanted to know what they considered their biggest goal for the season.
And he wasn't surprised by the answer.
"They said they wanted to win a game at the 11th Region Tournament," Grant said.
No team in school history had accomplished that goal.
At least not until this year.
The Lady Eagles (28-4) battled past Western Hills (24-13), 3-1, on Monday to earn a spot in the 11th Region Tournament semifinals for the first time ever.
Southern won by scores of 25-17, 25-27, 25-18 and 25-23.
The Lady Eagles will take on Henry Clay at 7:30 p.m. today at Tates Creek High School in Lexington.
The winner advances to the title game on Wednesday.
"This has been our goal since this summer," Southern senior Kennedy Easterling said. "Winning the district was a stair step to this. This is just so exciting."
Southern claimed it first 44th District Tournament title since 2006 last week with a win over Madison Central.
For the team's five seniors, however, there had been an bigger goal for a long, long time.
Southern had advanced to the 11th Regional Tournament for seven-straight years, but had won a total of just one set.
"It's crazy. Ever since I was in middle school, this is all we have ever talked about and what we've been working for," Southern senior Hannah Martin said of winning an 11th Region Tournament match. "It feels awesome to achieve that goal."
That goal finally became a reality on Monday.
It certainly wasn't easy, though.
Southern opened the season with a 3-0 win over Western Hills on Aug. 20 at home.
The rematch was a battle.
"They are a scrappy team. We knew they were going to get balls up," Grant said. "They are really well-coached. When we play them, it's always a battle. They just fight and fight."
Southern had a 12-11 lead in the first set before using a 6-1 run that featured kills from Martin, Sarah Mitchell and Alyssa Evans to take control.
Mitchell and Evans added several more kills as Lady Eagles closed out the opening set.
Southern had a 4-1 lead in the second set after a kill by Mitchell. The Lady Wolverines fought back and the lead bounced back-and-forth until the Lady Eagles had a set point at 25-24.
Western Hills scored the final three points, though, to even the match.
"We were in a position to win," Grant said of the second set. "So, we knew we couldn't get our heads down. We wanted to get out on them early -- which we did."
The Lady Eagles were determined not to let the momentum slip away.
"We just wanted to keep our adrenaline running so we could come back and get the win," freshman Julia Bingham said.
The Lady Eagles took a 5-1 lead on a kill by Evans and never trailed in the set. They led 15-6 and used big kills by Mitchell to go back in front.
Southern led for much of the fourth set, but was never able to pull away.
Back-to-back kills by Mitchell put the Lady Eagles up 19-16 and a kill by Martin gave Southern a four-point lead (22-18) late.
Western Hills came up with a block on match point.
Moments later, Avery St. John delivered the final kill.
The junior outside hitter took a pass on the right side and drove the ball to the floor.
"I was very nervous," St. John said. "I was just hoping it would go in."
The junior didn't get a great strike on the ball, but was able to get enough to end the match.
"She wasn't in a great spot, but she was able to get it over," Grant said of St. John.
Mitchell had 38 digs, 23 kills, two blocks and two aces. Evans had 18 digs, 15 kills and two blocks.
Kyla Atkins had 28 assists, 17 digs, five kills and one ace. Autumn Griffith had 21 digs.
Easterling had 25 assists and 12 digs with one ace. Martin had five kills, five digs and two blocks. St. John had 10 digs, two kills and two aces, while Bingham had five digs, two kills and two blocks.
"I'm just happy we pulled it off," Griffith said.
Henry Clay beat Southern in the first round of the 11th Region Tournament last year, 3-0.