EDWARDSVILLE — Two matches, two nailbiters and now two wins for the Belleville East boys volleyball team.
Junior John Mathews led a balanced Lancers attack with 12 kills and blocked a potential game-tying kill on match point as East defeated Edwardsville 25-13, 23-25, 25-23 on Tuesday in a Southwestern Conference match.
Less then 24 hours removed from a three-game win over Althoff in its season opener, the Lancers found themselves in an early season showdown featuring the top two programs in Southern Illinois.
But once again the Lancers came up with big plays. Tied at 23 in the final game, East junior Deion Buckels and then Mathews came up with blocks on Tiger kill attempts to give East the hard-fought win.
"I talked to the team about playing with some heart. Sometimes its like we're just going through the motions and not playing with any heart or any enthusiasm or any focus. Once we get through that we're okay,'' Lancers coach Stefanie Gaubatz said. "We played Althoff last night and it was kind of the same thing.
"We come out strong. We look well and then when kind of relax a little bit and when things aren't going our way we kind of tighten up a little bit.. I think that comes from the inexperience we have out there, for sure.''
The match was the opener of the 2013 season for Edwardsville, which struggled in the first game.
With Lancers senior Adam Warren serving three straight points, East jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead and was never threatened.
Patrick Smith added a four point service run -- which included two of Mathews team-high 12 kills --as the Lancers lead ballooned to 17-8. A kill by junior Taylor Quinley gave East a 25-13 first game win.
But Edwardsville, led by senior outside hitter Nathan Woolverton began to find the range in what turned out to be a see-saw second game.
"We wanted to be a little better in that first game and every game. I thought we showed some fight in that second game and so I wasn't too concerned because I don't think anything is too insurmountable to come back from,'' Tigers coach Andy Bersett said. "We started to make some plays defensively. We need the guys to be scrappy and just make plays. We just didn't make enough, I guess.''
The Tigers made two big plays at the end of game two to force a third and decisive game.
Tied at 23, outside hitter Brandon Davis tipped home a winner and when Woolverton's hard serve tipped the top of the net to where the Lancers could not return it, the match was tied at one game each.
Like game two, the third game was tight all the way. Warren served a pair of aces to put East up 3-1 early. The Lancers advantage reached 7-3 following a kill by Quinley before Edwardsville scored seven of the next eight points to take an 10-8 lead.
Setter Adam Douglas had a tip and Woolverton added a pair of kills to key the run.
However from that point on, neither team would lead by more then three points the rest of the way.
East led 23-21 following a Tigers hitting error, but Woolverton connected on his final kill of the night and the Lancers were called for a hitting error which tied the game at 23.
But with the match on the line, Buckels and Mathews came up big in the end for East.
"I think we have the potential to be a very good offensive team," Bersett aid. "It's not like we didn't have chances. We just made too many hitting errors tonight against a quality team."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org