Knights claim championship of Tiger Classic for fourth straight year

News-DemocratSeptember 7, 2013 

— The championship match of the Tiger Classic Volleyball Tournament is becoming like the movie "Groundhog Day" for the Mater Dei Knights and Edwardsville Tigers.

The Knights held off the Tigers 25-19, 21-25, 26-24 Saturday to capture the championship for the fourth straight year.

The Tigers placed second for the fourth straight year.

"(Edwardsville coach) Jamie (Parker) says between Game 1 and Game 2, 'I'm sick of this. I'm sick of you guys walking away with this one,"' Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers said. "I told her that I'm sick of them walking away with the one at the end of the year. Right before the playoffs, they give us a lick.

"It's just one those things when you put two teams like us and them -- and I have all the respect in the world for Jami and her program because they have done amazing stuff and they have tons of great athletes -- up against each other, someone has to win and someone has to lose. And, more often than not, it's going to be tight."

The last two years, the Tigers have managed to turn the tables on the Knights when they meet again at the end of the regular season.

"We'll play them again," Parker said. "We're going to go back after them again on Senior Night, and see if we still have their number on Senior Night."

The Knights improved to 13-0 despite returning only three starters and having to deal emotionally with former coach Fred Rakers, Chad's father, being diagnosed with cancer.

"If you would have told me that we would 13-0 at this point, I don't know if I would have believed you," Rakers said. "This group has come together so tightly, and they are only getting closer and becoming a better team. We've faced a lot of adversity with life battles as well as on the court.

"I think it is making them stronger people, and in the long run, that's what you want."

The Knights had five players with five or more kills in the championship match.

Elle Gebke led the way with nine kills followed by Kelly Voss with seven, Tori Johnson had six kills and Ayvonna Kampwerth and Lauren Donnewald both had five.

Camrey Saye had 12 kills and four blocks for the Tigers, who also got seven kills from Lynsey Wright and Autumn Harris.

Wright was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the tourney. Edwardsville libero Katie Shashack also made all-tournament team.

Setter Lexi Kohnen was the lone Mater Dei player on the all-tournament team.

The Knights led 23-19 in the deciding third game before the Tigers rallied to tie the score at 24-24 on kill by Corrine Croft.

The Knights scored the final two points of the match off attack errors by the Tigers.

"Our blocking held in really nice at the end of the match," Parker said. "It made a big difference for us. It really started turning some momentum at the end. We just couldn't quite finish it out."

The Tigers went three sets in all three of their matches Saturday, outlasting Freeburg 25-15, 21-25, 15-13 and Mascoutah 25-23, 21-25, 15-10 before falling to the Knights in the title match.

"It's a young squad, and everything I ask the girls to do, the next game they step out and do it," Parker said. "We got into a rough match last night and this morning, and I came out and said, 'You have to go out swinging. You have to play big all the way to the end. You can't be scared to make errors.' The next match, we got into a tight game and they were swinging all the way to the end.

"We came into this game and I told them, 'You have to be headstrong. Go after every ball. No big runs.' They didn't allow any more big runs. They're doing everything we are asking them to do, they are improving. They just need to see it once or twice."

The Mascoutah Indians, under first-year coach Todd Gober. created a buzz by placing fourth in the tourney.

The Indians, who posted a 4-24 record last season, battled Edwardsville in a close match and did the same against Bloomington (19-25, 25-16, 15-13) in the third-place match.

The Indians fell behind 13-9 in the third game against Bloomington, but they got within 14-13 on a tip by Megan Lindsay.

A kill by Niani Lewis provided match point for the Purple Raiders.

"I think you take a lot of consolation in the fact that we're playing good teams tough," Gober said. "I think we're developing a pretty good game and chemistry with the team."

The Indians have eight players on their roster listed at 5-foot-10 or taller.

"There was a lot here to work with and build on," Gober said. "We have the height and the athleticism. It's just developing the speed and developing some volleyball I.Q. I think this team is going to have a lot of fun this year. I think we're going to be a fun team to watch and we're going to play good, aggressive volleyball."

The Indians were represented on the all-tournament team by outside hitter Liza Gober.

Making up the rest of the all-tournament team were: Lewis and Julie Laugel from Bloomington, Skylar Day from Minooka, Abby Lealaimatafao from Freeburg, Marie Less and Kite Oladipupo from Decatur St. Teresa, Whitney Johnson from Farmington, Allison Long from Chatham Glenwood and Cathy Schreiber from Collinsville.

Contact reporter Steve Korte at skorte@bnd.com or 239-2522.

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