BREESE — Central High volleyball coach Jim Cook doesn't believe in softening up the early-season schedule looking for easy wins.
The Cougars played their traditional season-opener against Althoff on Tuesday and for one of the rare times in recent years, Cook left that opener with a smile on his face following Central's 25-22, 25-22 victory.
"It's got to be at least five years," Cook said when asked when the last time Central beat Althoff. "I know last year when we played them over there, we were just bad. Really bad.
"Maybe we should start off a little easier. I don't want to weaken our schedule, but when you start out and play this kind of competition right off the bat it does let us see where we're at."
Expected to be one of the top teams in Southern Illinois, the veteran Cougars flashed their dominant firepower and quickness.
Senior Maddie Timmermann led the way with seven kills and helped turn a first-set deficit into a Cougar lead with a five-point service run that included an ace.
She had six kills in the first set and Althoff played keepaway from her the rest of the night.
"They played really good," said Thomas, whose team fell to 1-1 after beating Columbia last week. "Timmermann is a stud; that No. 4 (6-foot-1 Central sophomore Kendra Wilken)...she's huge. She was hitting it over our outsides and I consider my outsides (able) to jump pretty well.
"They're scrappy and they have the experience....and it shows. You can tell that they have that upperclassman leadership."
Led by junior Briana Nowak (nine kills) and sophomore Alanna Bramwell (seven kills), Althoff jumped out to an early lead in the first game.
A kill by Nowak put Althoff up 15-11, but three straight error by Althoff allowed the Cougars to regroup. Timmermann's serving put Central back on top and after two kills by Bramwell brought Althoff to within 24-22, Timmermann ended it with another blast through the Crusader defense.
"They got us in a rotation where we couldn't terminate or didn't have a pass," Thomas said. "That's something we've got to work on is not letting the other team go on a run like that. They're very scrappy and they're big.
"I thought it was a very well-fought match and I'll be excited to see them again."
Althoff hung close in both games, rarely letting Central build much of a lead. Wilken had five of her six kills in the second game and senior Maisie Kampwerth also came up big with five kills on the night.
Setter Torre Kohrmann also had an active night all over the court for the Cougars with digs, passes and several kills.
Cook was not happy when Central committed three late service errors and five overall in the second game.
Althoff fought back to 21-19, 22-20, 23-21 and 24-22, but a kill by Lydia Rehkemper ended the match.
"I hated to see us serve so poorly in that (second) set," Cook said. "That could have cost us right there, it could have cost us the whole game."