Althoff snaps Belleville West's volleyball winning streak

For the News-DemocratOctober 2, 2013 

— The Althoff Crusaders are living proof that you can't judge a volleyball team by its record.

Due in part to a grueling tournament schedule, Althoff took a 5-10 record into Tuesday's match at Belleville West. But the Crusaders looked like anything but a losing team in a posting a 25-13, 25-23 win over their crosstown rival.

"September was a struggle for us and we wanted to start off October right," Althoff coach Sara Thomas said. "We were nervous because West is a very good team and city matches are always big for us. I'm glad we won and I'm extremely proud of our girls."

The loss snapped a four-match winning streak for West, which dropped to 14-5.

"Althoff is a very good volleyball team, and playing that schedule, it makes them tougher," Maroons coach Austin Betz said. "It lets them know what they need to do to be competitive at a high level. They did the right things tonight to beat us."

An ace serve by Rachel Kaltwasser gave Althoff an 8-5 lead in game one and it went ahead 16-9 when West's Kayla Juenger hit the ball into the net. The Maroons called their second timeout after that point in attempt to slow down Althoff's momentum, but the Crusaders boosted their lead to 20-10 on a block by Dani Hawthorne.

West pulled within 20-13 on a block by Toni Fields, but an ace serve by Kaltwasser made the score 24-13. The Crusaders closed out the game on a kill by Briana Nowak.

"Our record doesn't look too good on paper, but we're a lot better than that," said Althoff junior Megan Seibel, who had four kills. "Playing West, there's definitely a lot of competition. You always want to beat them and try your best."

In game two, Althoff went ahead 11-8 on a block by Seibel and a hitting error by West made the score 13-9. The Maroons twice pulled within one point, but a kill by Seibel gave Althoff a 21-15 lead.

"Playing the kind of schedule we do, it keeps the intensity up," Seibel said. "It's kind of a kick in the butt to keep you working."

This time, West was able to tie the score at 22-22 on a kill by Juenger. But a tip by Kaltwasser put Althoff ahead to stay at 24-23, and the Crusaders won the game and the match on a block in the middle by Alanna Bramwell.

"Our serving and defense were a lot better tonight," Thomas said. "We did a much better job of finishing. In the past, we might have let the other team come back and win that game, but we really showed character by coming out of a timeout at 24-23 and finishing on the next point."

Bramwell had a match-high six kills for Althoff while Nowak had five.

"We play in a tournament at St. Joseph's Academy and that's all nationally ranked teams," Thomas said. "We might not do great in that tournament, but coming out of it, we learn so much and we get so much experience going into October."

Juenger and Zoe Zeiter had six and five kills, respectively, for West.

"We passed very poorly to start with," Betz said. "They were being aggressive on their serves and their attack and we weren't able to run our offense. We made 14 errors in the first game.

"We had 15 errors in the second game, but I thought we played a lot better. Our serving and passing improved and we got some confidence, and when you get confidence, good things start happening."

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