BELLEVILLE — The Mater Dei Knights shuffled their lineup once again, but that didn't keep them from posting a 25-23, 25-17 win over the Althoff Crusaders on Tuesday night.
The Knights were playing without outside hitter Tori Johnson, who has been plagued by shin splints, and middle blocker Kelly Voss, who was out due to illness.
"We had Tori sitting out tonight and our second middle was sick, so we had to switch some things around and put some kids in positions that they haven't been in all year, and they handled it really well. I'm really proud of the way we handled adversity tonight.
"These are adverse conditions anytime you walk into Althoff's gym. You don't walk in here and get automatic wins ever. This is always going to be a battle, and Althoff is always going to bring their best against us. This is kind of a Catholic rivalry game, and it's one that matters to us as much as it matters to them.''
Lauren Donnewald moved from right side to middle blocker and sophomore Erica Lampe was brought up from the junior varsity squad to make up for the two absences.
Madison Haake had seven kills to lead the Knights, while Lampe had six kills.
The Knights improved to 25-2, while the Crusaders fell to 12-16.
"We want to play this kind of schedule at this time of year,'' said Rakers, whose team was coming off a 26-24, 24-26, 18-25 loss to Missouri powerhouse St. Joseph's Academy on Saturday. "We want to play the St. Joe's now. We want to see how we match up now. Play the Althoffs now, and see how we match up for the postseason.''
Althoff coach Sara Thomas said the loss will help the Crusaders in the long run.
"We have our schedule the way it is for a reason,'' Thomas said. "To prepare us for when it matters, and that's regionals. Even though we lost, we saw a lot of good things and we saw some things we need to work on. When we have practice again on Thursday, it will turn into a positive.''
Thomas pointed to middle blocker Alanna Bramwell and Jade Sanlin as having a strong match.
"Alanna is a blocking machine and she terminates the ball all the time,'' Thomas said. "And, Jade had like 27 digs the last time we played them and I don't know what she had tonight, but she had a lot.''
The Crusaders fell to Mater Dei 25-22, 25-16 on Oct. 4 during pool play in the Belleville East Metro Classic.
The Crusaders sold special rally towels for the rematch match with the Knights. The proceeds will benefit Althoff supporter Mike Kelley, who has been diagnosed with cancer.
Althoff coach Sara Thomas was a former classmate of Kelley, a 2005 graduate of Althoff.
There also was a moment of silence before the match for Kelley and former Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers, who also is battling cancer.
"We wanted to show our support to Kelley Family and Fred, and it was a perfect night,'' Thomas said. "We normally get a good group and we wanted to raise some money. If anything, it gave the girls a little more spark than they already had.''