BREESE — If this match serves as a measuring stick for how much the Mater Dei Knights have improved over the course of the season, then they've grown by leaps and bounds.
Junior outside hitter Chloe Beckmann had seven kills in leading the Knights past the Edwardsville Tigers 25-10, 25-12 Monday night.
The match served as a stark contrast from the early season meeting between the two squads. Mater Dei edged Edwardsville 25-19 21-25, 26-24 on Sept. 7 in the championship match of the Tiger Classic at Edwardsville High School.
"We've made some forced changes throughout the season, and we've made some changes that just needed to happen at different points,'' Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers said. "I think now we're where we need to be.''
The Knights also reversed a recent trend where they beat Edwardsville early in the season and then fell to them in the rematch right before the playoffs.
"We talked about that before the game,'' Rakers said. "Because we've grown so much this year, I said, 'Don't let them come out and do what they've done to us over the last four years, I think, and get us at the end of the season and make us look like we are not ready for the postseason. Come out and take it to them the way you know you can.''
The Knights (27-2) did just that, jumping out to a 13-5 lead in the first game and a 13-4 lead in the second game.
"I think we were just ready to play,'' Beckmann said. "We knew we had to bring out 'A' game. We wanted to win really bad without Tori (Johnson).''
The 5-foot-8 Beckmann has assumed a major role for the Knights after replacing senior Tori Johsnon, who has been plagued by shin spints.
"She's a tiny little thing, but she swings and brings it every time,'' Rakers said of Beckmann.
After the match, Mater Dei assistant coach Adam Toennies read a tribute to Rakers for picking up his 100th coaching win.
Rakers reached the milestone in just three years since taking over the reigns of the Knights volleyball program from his father, Fred.
"One hundred wins comes because of great players, great teams,'' Chad Rakers said. "It's not about me, it's about the kids that we have that make this program what it is and the tradition that they keep alive.''
For the Tigers (19-10), not much went right in the match. Their kill leader was Korrine Croft with four.
"For us, it was not a good night,'' Tigers coach Jami Parker said. "Again, a lot of unforced errors. I think five our six hitters hit in the negative numbers. You can't win a ballgame if you don't have an offense. Our serve receive and defense was definitely off, too, which factors into the hitters getting the ball.''
The Tigers have no time to dwell on the loss since they play the Belleville West Maroons at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on their home court with a chance of claiming the outright Southwestern Conference title.
"It'll be our Senior Night and we have a conference championship with Belleville West to play,'' Parker said. "The girls have to let this one go, and we'll have to work it out on Wednesday and Thursday. They have to get right back at it and play tomorrow night.''
The Knights stretched their advantage to 19-9 in the first game thanks to two service aces by Madison Haake and a kill by Avoynna Kampwerth.
The Knights went up 23-10 on a kill by Kelly Voss. An attack error by the Tigers and a well-place dink by Haake put the finishing touches on the game.
Elle Gebke had three aces during a 6-0 service run to start the second game.
The Tigers got within 6-3 on a block by Croft, but then fell back 14-5 on a kill by Beckmann.
An attack error and a setting error by the Tigers took the Knights to match point, which was tallied on another dink by Haake.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.