Pirates set to sail into postseason again

News-DemocratOctober 27, 2013 

— After making their first-ever trip to the State Volleyball Tournament last year, the Valmeyer Pirates are eager to prove that they're not one-hit wonders.

"Any time you start winning, kids come out and work a little harder because they want to be a part of a wining team," Valmeyer coach Jenny Kohnz said. "We've always had a competitive program. My assistant coach, Karla (Bivins), was my high school coach, and even though we didn't have the four classes then, I felt like we were competitive even in the county with Gibault and Waterloo.

"I definitely don't think it's going to be a one-time thing that we get to the state tournament. I think we have good chance this year. I think the hardest part is going to be getting out of the regional."

The Pirates (24-1) are the top seed in the Class 1A Steelevile Regional. They ended the regular season by winning seven of their last eight matches with their lone loss coming to Gibault.

The New Athens Yellow Jackets are seeded second, the Marissa Meteors are seeded third and the Steeleville Warriors are seeded fourth.

New Athens took the Pirates to three games in a match on Sept. 26, while Steeleville went three games in a match with the Pirates last week.

"They're a young team, too," Kohnz said of the Yellow Jackets. "They don't have a lot of seniors in their program. They have a well-rounded offense. You can beat a team two times, but to beat a team three times in one season, that is always hard.

"Steeleville, they know us, too. Sometimes when you play a team that knows you too well, it's not always the best thing. The regional is going to be tough. I feel like if we can get out of it and get some confidence, we can go a ways."

The Pirates lost three seniors -- right-side hitter Brittany Killy, middle hitter Paige Whipple, and outside hitter Andrea Inman -- from last year's squad, which placed fourth in the state.

Whipple is playing for McKendree, Inman is playing for Lincoln Land and Killy is playing for Southwestern Illinois College.

Whipple and Inman accounted for 754 of the Pirates' 953 kills last season.

Junior middle hitter Tiffani Brewer and junior setter Miranda Kaufman are back as well as junior libero Morgan Redohl.

Redohl's twin sister, McKenzi, and senior Erica Nabers also saw a lot of playing time last season.

Brewer has bounced back froma concussion suffered in basketball last season and a broken wrist suffered in a P.E. class in the spring to pace the Pirates in kills with 217.

"She didn't get started back into volleyball until the middle of the summer, so it took her a little while," Kohnz said. "It was good because all of the girls on the team got a chance to get thier swings in. Now Tiffani is definitely our go-to girl."

The Pirates have three other players -- Britanny Killy's younger sister Jordyn (156 kills), Nabers (138 kills) and Kaufmann (137 kills) -- with over 100 kills this season.

It's unusual for a setter like Kaufmann to have so many kills.

"Of the six girls that I usally have on the court, all of them have been a setter at some point, whether it was junior high or high school," Kohnz said. "They're all good about if they get that first ball, they can set Miranda. She was good last year as a sophomore running the 5-1, but this year she is a little more confident in herself and she does a lot more in the front row as far as attacking."

Kohnz had no shortage of candidates to fill the open positions created by her graduating seniors as the Valmeyer Middle School volleyball team placed second in the Class M State Tournament last school year.

"I had one or two positions to fill in, and I filled them in freshmen," Kohnz said.

Jordyn Killy is one of those freshman. Versatility is her strength as she can play middle hitter, outside hitter and setter.

Outside hitter-defensive specialist Savannah Williams also has made a big contribution as freshmen.

Another freshman, Blair Brady, also has seen some action with the varsity squad.

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

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