AMHERST - There aren't many - if any - area high school sports teams that make for a more formidable opponent than the Eden girls volleyball team.
The Southwestern Trojans found out firsthand Monday night just how tough the four-time defending state champions are.
Fifth-seeded Southwestern battled the second-seeded Lady Raiders - particularly in a tight first game - but ultimately fell, 25-22, 25-9, 25-16 in the Section 6 Class C final at Sweet Home High School.
Despite the loss, Southwestern coach Amanda Krakowiak was pleased with her team's effort against Eden and all season long.
''I'm extremely proud of them,'' Krakowiak said. ''These girls have worked so hard. This has been their goal from day one, to get to the sectional final game. They have been pushing and pushing and giving me everything that I've asked of them. They really deserved it this year. They deserved to be here.''
With the win, Eden advances to the sub-regionals. It will meet the Section 3 champion at 8 pm Wednesday at Sweet Home, with the winner of that game moving on to the Far West Regionals on Saturday.
The Lady Raiders, as usual, have their sights set on another state title.
''Our goal is, we expect to be up there for the state championship every year,'' Eden coach Stephen Pierce said. ''That's the sight we set at the beginning of the year. I think (Southwestern) was one of the tougher teams that we'll face in the playoffs. I knew they were athletic and they had nothing to lose. The only problem after this is we play teams we have never seen before.''
If Eden plays like it did in the second and third games on Tuesday night, it might not matter who it faces.
After pulling out a close first game by holding off a Southwestern rally, the Lady Raiders used a strong service game and hard-hitting offense to dominate play during stretches of the final two games. In the second game, they built a comfortable 16-9 lead and then rattled off the last nine points to go up, 2-0. And in the third game, they responded to a 12-8 deficit by scoring 17 of the next 21 points to close out the match.
''They're very strong servers,'' Krakowiak said. ''That's something that we've known for a while and we've tried to work on it. I think that's probably where our weakest point was, trying to get that first pass up there.
''I give them credit, they have really good offense. They have some really good hitters and they were finding the holes in our defense here and there.''
Eden's biggest hitter was Heather Holscher, who had 15 kills along with a pair of aces. Meghan Ballou added seven kills and two blocks and Lainy Pierce had five aces and 38 assists.
''We try to really use the serve as a weapon,'' Pierce said. ''I told the team after the first game that we made a lot of serving errors which kept (Southwestern) in the ballgame. (In the second and third games) we forced them to have to make a play to side out. Our serving got better and some of our defenders settled down. They were a little too jumpy in the first game.''
Sally Rudny led Southwestern with 11 kills and four blocks, while Kara Schutte had nine assists and five digs.
''I'm very proud of what they accomplished this season,'' Krakowiak said. ''They definitely gave it their all. Yeah, they had moments of weakness but they never gave up. They definitely tried to persevere and push through it and finish as hard as they could at the end.''