BREESE — Belleville East volleyball coach Stacey Posey warned her team the odds were stacked against them Tuesday night.
Not only were they at Mater Dei in one of the most hostile gyms for opposing teams in Southern Illinois, they also were there on the night that Hall of Fame coach Fred Rakers was being honored.
Belleville East hung tough, but dropped a 25-16, 25-18 decision to the Knights.
"Our whole environment was great," Posey said of the packed gym and emotional tribute to Rakers. "I told my girls before the match... this is the one time it's you against the world. Honestly. If you can play in this environment, you can play in any environment... it's never going to be like this again.
"It was emotional on both sides."
There were plenty of first-match jitters and the large crowd and emotional night contributed to those.
Belleville East made 26 unforced errors and Mater Dei made 18, but the Lancers still pushed the Knights hard in both games thanks to the net dominance of senior four-year starter and outside hitter Montira Mosby.
"She's going to be the go-to (player) and everybody we play's going to know the ball's going to her," Posey said. "I was really pleased with all of my girls, I thought their effort was fantastic tonight."
Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers still had to coach a game on the night his father --recently diagnosed with cancer --was being honored by the entire community.
Not an easy task.
"A lot of emotions tonight," Chad Rakers said. "I wasn't sure how strong I was going to be able to be there for a while. We got it all back together before the game started. We talked about some important things about life...really more than about the (volleyball) floor.
"We just wanted to make sure that we went out there and showed Dad a quality effort more than anything else."
The Knights did their part by presenting Fred Rakers, one of the top coaches in Illinois volleyball history, with yet another victory.
"I said if anybody gets to play here, I want it to be us," Posey said. "We just moved this game to our first match of the season...we usually play then later in the year. We felt like we need to be challenged early on and see where we match up against one of the best teams we're going to be play all season."
The Knights weren't dominant, instead spreading the ball around in more of a balanced attack with several players doing damage.
Sophomore Kelly Voss had five kills while senior Avoynna Kampwerth and junior Lauren Donnewald each had four.
"I feel that's what you need to do every year," Chad Rakers said. "Kids are going to have their nights ...and they're going to have them on their own, you've just got to let them happen.
"But everybody's got to believe that they can put it away when it's time."