EDWARDSVILLE — The O'Fallon Panthers have set the bar high with a level of excellence unmatched by another volleyball team in the Southwestern Conference during the first half of the 2013 season.
On Tuesday at Edwardsville High School, the Panthers raised that bar another level or two.
Junior middle hitter Dirk Husemann led a balanced attack with eight kills and three teammates added four or more kills as O'Fallon remained undefeated in the SWC with a 25-16, 25-13 demolition of Edwardsville.
Pushed to three games by the Tigers earlier in the season, O'Fallon (11-2, 5-0) wasted little time in taking command in both games, jumping out to leads of 7-3 and 9-1 behind the strong serving of Alex Belongy and Jon Hobbs.
After clinching the first game on a kill by Husemann, Hobbs and then Belongy both had four-point service runs in game two as the Panthers jumped out to a quick eight point lead.
O'Fallon didn't let up the rest of the night.
"Because of the way we've played, we've set the bar high this season,'' O'Fallon coach Katelyn Hagarty said. " But we're always talking about not being complacent and trying to raise our level of plaY even higher. We talk about finishing when we have a chance to close out matches. Tonight we finished.
"I thought we came out and played very well. We passed well, we blocked well, we hit and we returned well. It was a good night.''
Edwardsville (6-8, 2-4) trailed just 7-6 in game one following a kill by Jordin Ray and a tip by James Sauermann, but following a kill by Husemann which gave O'Fallon an 11-8 lead, the Panthers put away game one.
A five-point service run by Hobbs -- while featured kills by Belongy and a Luke Terhaar and a block by Husemann -- gave O'Fallon a commanding 16-8 lead.
Edwardsville would get no closer then six points the rest of the night. With Terhaar dishing out 19 assists and Nolan Melesky (five kills) and Belongy (four kills) providing offense, the Panthers were not going to be stopped on this night.
And there wasn't a lot Edwardsville coach Andy Bersett or the Tiger could do to stop it.
"You've got to hand it to them (O'Fallon). They run a really good offense and tonight they clicked. This had to be one of their best matches,'' Bersett said. "But at the same time we made things to easy for them.
"We gave them way too many free balls. We just gave them too many points. They beat us. They flat out beat us.''
The Panthers continued to roll in game two. Hobbs served four straight points as Husemann had a kill and a block, Terhaar added an over-the-shoulder tip at the net and Belongy pounded down a kill.
After a kill by Husemann gave O'Fallon back the serve, Belongy served four more winners -- all coming on Tigers errors -- as O'Fallon took a 9-1 lead.
So strong was the Panthers return of serve in game two is that Edwardsville did not score a point on its serve until Ryan Bode had two straight.
By that time O'Fallon had built an 18-7 lead.
Hagarty said the Panthers success continues to be a team effort.
"I play those six kids and they do a great job, but our bench deserves credit for our success as well,'' Hagarty said. "They're up cheering for their teammates and supporting them. I don't telling them to cheer either. They're doing that on their own."
Contract reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org