BELLEVILLE — The Belleville West duo of Cade Dibadj and Cody Hobbs proved to be a little more than Althoff could handle on Monday as the Maroons recorded a 25-21, 26-24 win in a nonconference volleyball match.
Looking to build on recent strong performances by its outside hitters, West went to the 6-foot-4 Dibadj and the 6-2 Hobbs early and often as they offset an otherwise "off" hitting night by combining for 17 kills and leading West (7-6) to the narrow win.
West, which also got a team-high 20 assists from junior setter Trevor Juenger, made 20 hitting errors but came up with enough plays in the later stages of both games.
"Our outsides have been playing well recently and so we've gone to both Cade and Cody a little bit more. Also our passing as a little off tonight and so we were forced to do that a little more. They picked up the slack,'' West coach Austin Betz said. "When the passing isn't perfect we can the other hitters as much. Trevor (Juenger) and Brian (Schield) both did a good job of getting to the ball and getting it to our outsides.''
Althoff (2-4) held leads late in both games and gave the bigger and stronger Maroons all they wanted until the end.
A block by Brice Miller gave the Crusaders a 23-22 lead in game two but seconds later Hobbs provided West its first and only match point when he hammered down his 11th kill of the match.
When the Crusaders were called for a hitting error, the Maroons had survived a real scare from their city rivals.
"I guess they (the referees) called it a lift," Althoff coach Tim Gagen said of the final point. "The last two matches against Edwardsville last week and tonight against West we've played them down to the wire. We're making progress.
"I think a lot of has to do with experience. In close matches we seem t get tight when it gets close and we lose some of our aggressiveness.''
Althoff was tight early, falling behind 4-0, but the Crusaders rallied quickly. Three-point service runs by Derek Newgent and Max Orlet gave Althoff an 8-6 lead.
Neither team would lead by more then four points for the remainder of the first game.
A kill by Hobbs broke a 20-all tie and Schield responded with a three-point serving run which included two errors by the Crusaders as the lead grew to 24-20.
Seconds later, Hobbs ended the game with a kill.
The Maroons were sparked in the later stages of the first game and throughout the second by the play of freshman defensive specialist Nicholas Stevenson. Playing with the poise of a senior, Stevenson was all over the court.
"He (Stevenson) is an excellent defensive player and he picked up a lot of balls tonight that could have easily been down,'' Betz said. "Actually I thought we played really good defense which actually saved us because we were giving up way too many free points on hitting errors tonight.''
Proving his all-around ability, Hobbs had a six-point service run early in game two as West grabbed a 12-6 lead. Cameron Vielweber had a block and a kill during the run which also featured a kill by Dibadj.
But Althoff wouldn't go away as it fought back to take a 23-22 lead before the Maroons had the final say.
"The season is a marathon. It's not a sprint and we're working hard and improving every day,"
Gagen said. "We've played O'Fallon, (Belleville) East, Edwardsville and West and been and while they are all strong teams, I don't think there is one dominant team in the area this year.
"The goal is to be playing our best by the third week of May. We'll be ready.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or email@example.com