With red uniforms, white on their sleeves and black shorts, it was hard to tell the Huron and New London volleyball teams apart before Wednesday's Division III district semifinal at Willard High School.
Once the match began, it became clear.
The defending state-champion Tigers, ranked 11th in this year's final coaches poll, exploited a Wildcats program that hadn't been in a district semifinal in the better part of a decade to sweep in straight games, 25-11, 25-11, 25-13.
"I think they hung in there, but we're just talking about a ton more experience," said New London coach Teresa Miller.
New London (17-8) never led in any of the three games and tied the score only three times, twice in Game 3. But 5-5 in the final game was as close as it would get before the Tigers (18-6) moved into a district final against Margaretta (17-7), a team that has beaten them twice this season.
The third meeting will take place back at Willard at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"There's nothing looking past that next match," Huron coach Don Wood said. "... We're really looking forward to another rematch with them. It would be our third meeting this year and that could be one for the ages."
The Tigers were a relentless adversary for their feline foes, making the 'Cats look much like the house variety.
Kat Ferrell (10 kills) and Hannah Figgins (four aces) took Game 1 into their hands to spur eight unanswered points.
Ferrell had four kills during that stretch and Figgins served seven consecutive points with two aces. New London, meanwhile, couldn't string together more than three consecutive points the entire match, while Huron went on spurts of 10-1 in Games 1 and 3, and 14-3 in Game 2 to create plenty of separation.
"We didn't allow New London to really get into anything," Wood said. "We served aggressively and our hitters kept some pressure on, so I was happy to see that."
The 'Cats kept it to 7-4 and 4-3 in the first two games before letting the Tigers surge to big leads. They stuck around a little longer in Game 3, tying the game at 3 on a Janessa Kipp tip, and again knotting it at 5 with an Olivia Held spike and an Alexis Cole block-kill.
Kipp and Held were New London's offensive leaders with five kills apiece. Held added 12 digs and Kipp had five digs, defensively. Katie Green had 13 assists and Michalea Brown added four kills.
But it just wasn't meant to be for New London.
An apparent Held kill was negated by a net violation and Huron went on to build a five-point lead by taking eight of the next 11 points, then stretched it out to 18-10 with a four-point string fueled by kills from Samantha Wechter, Taylor Slauterbeck and Justine Butler.
Slauterbeck registered eight kills and eight digs to lead Huron, while Devon Koenig had five kills and Taryn Graham added seven digs.
The Tigers' offense was set up by Wechter (14 assists) and Sydney Grendow (100 percent setting, 12 assists).
"We had them scouted really good and we knew what we were coming up against," Miller said. "We just couldn't get a serve through. They're such a good passing team. Don's teams are always so fundamentally sound and we haven't seen any balls hit that hard, maybe since St. Paul."
If having double-digit leads in every game wasn't enough already, Huron drove home the dagger with stellar finishes.
The Tigers ended with five unanswered points in Game 1, a 6-1 spurt in Game 2 and an 11-3 run in Game 3.
Margaretta 3, Clear Fork 0
In the nightcap, the Polar Bears had little trouble setting up the third meeting with Huron after a 25-12, 25-9, 25-6 win over Clear Fork (8-16).
Margaretta improved to 17-7 with the win.
Leading the Bears was Katie Nesbitt with 13 kills, 18 assists and four service aces while Whitney Strause was 15-of-15 serving to go with 18 assists. Shannon Coy added seven kills and eight digs while Jessica Napka had eight kills, two blocks and four aces.
Ali James added eight digs.