Crusaders avoid letdown, capture city title in rematch with Lancers

News-DemocratOctober 8, 2013 

— Althoff coach Sara Thomas was a little apprehensive about having to play the Belleville East Lancers for the second time in four days.

Thomas' concerns proved unwarrented as Briana Nowak had 10 kills and seven digs in leading the Crusaders over the Belleville East Lancers 25-17, 25-14 Tuesday.

The win, coupled with a 25-13, 25-23 win over the Belleville West Maroons on Oct. 1, gives the Crusaders the city championship in volleyball.

"One big thing was that this was for city champs or everybody to be tied, so I knew that they were going to come out stronger than they did Saturday,'' said Thomas, whose team beat the Lancers 25-19, 25-13 Saturday in the 11th-place match at the Belleville East Metro Classic.

The Crusaders had no letdown in the quick rematch.

"I thought my girls did pretty well with playing them back-to-back,'' Thomas said. "That's what we were really stressing: Not to let that happen.''

Nowak, a junior, missed out again on the double-double that has been eluding her this season.

"She was so close,'' Thomas said. "I was hoping she was would get that double-double. She's been awfully close, but I don't think she has gotten it yet. It takes a lot of focus and determination for a player to achieve that.''

Middle blocker Allanna Bramwell added five kills, setter Rachel Kaltwasser had 16 assists and Jade Sanlin had 19 digs for the Crusaders, who improved to 12-15.

The Lancers dropped to 12-11. They're 0-4 against their two Belleville rivals (0-2 vs. Althoff and 0-2 vs. Belleville West) over the last 12 days.

"We played with no intensity and no emotion,'' East coach Stephanie Posey said. "They were louder. They played ball for ball harder than we did. They outplayed us in every aspect of the match.''

In the first game, the Crusaders tolled out to a 7-2 lead behind a five-point service run by junior Megan Seibel.

Kaltwasser had a well-placed tip and Nowak had a kill to lead the charge.

A stuff block by Shelby Ridgeway got the Lancers within 11-7 and a lifting violation drew them within 12-9.

Bramwell had a tip and then an ace as she rotated into the serving postiion to put the Crusaders up 20-15.

Leading 22-17, Seibel had back-to-back kills and Nowak had a back-row kill to close out the game.

The second was tied at 7-7 when a service error by the Lancers and four-point service run by Nowak enabled the Crusaders to take a 12-7 advantage.

The Lancers got within 13-10 after a service ace by Katey Sauerwein, but then things started to spiral out of control for them.

Kills by Bramwell and Noval put the Crusaders 16-11 and then Seibel went on a four-point service run that included back-to-back stuff blocks by Bramwell.

A kill by Nowak took the Crusaders to match point, which was scored on their second attempt via a spiking error by the Lancers.

Posey said her team had 11 unforced errors in the first game and several more in the second game.

Posey is still confident that those errors can be corrected.

"We ran a different lineup tonight,'' Posey said. "It's the first time we went with a 6-2 all season. We've been playing eight girls all season, and tonight we went with 10. We're just trying to push some kids to be better and see what we get out of it.

"I definitely think we can turn it around. We have a lot of young girls that know what to do. They just need to play together and get the touches.''

The Crusaders have a tough closing stretch to their regular-season schedule. Their final four opponents are Mater Dei, O'Fallon, Villa Duchesne and Incarnate Word.

"We don't ever get a break, but that's OK, that's how we like it,'' Thomas said.

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

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