BREESE — When the spotlight was the brightest, Central senior middle hitter Maddie Timmermann seemed to shine the most.
Timmermann rose to the occasion in key matches, especially in the postseason, during her four seasons with the Cougars.
"I guess I'm blessed with that because when it comes to big games, I get really excited,'' said Timmermann, who was a part of teams that brought back a second-place trophy and two third-place trophies from the state tournament during her career. "I don't ever really get nervous. I just get pumped up, like, 'OK, this is when I need to play my best, so I am going to.'''
Timmermann said the only time she got nervous on the volleyball court was as a freshman.
"My freshman year we went to state and the first time I went on that court I got really nervous, but that was about it,'' Timmermann said.
Her clutch performances led to Timmmermann being selected as the Belleville News-Democrat's Class 3A-4A Volleyball Player of the Year in voting by metro-east coaches.
Timmermann had a team-leading 419 kills and a team-leading 192 blocks this season for the Cougars, who posted a 36-6 record and placed third in the Class 3A state tournament.
She also was third on her team in digs with 152.
"She was a very well-rounded player,'' Central coach Jim Cook said. "She's not only good at the net both blocking and hitting, but she was able to play in the back row all those years, and she did a good job there. And, she could set. She had good hands.''
Whenever the Cougars needed a big point, they turned to Timmermann.
And, although other teams knew that, she still came through.
"It was uncanny how she could find a way to get around and past players that were bigger than her and still make hits and get kills,'' Cook said.
Timmermann said the ability to get around blocks didn't come naturally.
"I worked on that a lot, actually,'' Timmermann said. "I just told the setters to set me a little quicker, and I twisted my wrist to get around (the block).''
Timmermann was a four-year starter who learned the ropes from former Central stars Jenna Hemann and Taylor Voss.
"It was nice having competition like that, especially Jenna Hemann because everybody knew of her and how great of an athlete she was,'' Timmermann said. "She really pushed me.''
When it was time for Timmermann to assume a leading role for the Cougars as a junior, she was ready.
"She was younger than them and she was able to learn things from them,'' Cook said. "It was right there in front of her for all those years watching those other girls do it, so it was natural for her to take over games like that.''
Timmermann went to St. Rose Grade School and she played on the Clinton County Crush club volleyball team coached by Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers, whom she credits for helping develop her passion for volleyball.
The Cougars lost to Mater Dei 27-25, 15-25, 23-25 during the regular season, but turned the tables on the Knights with a 25-21, 25-21 win in the championship of the Triad Regional.
"We knew we had to come out strong, and we did,'' Timmermann said. "Winning in two games was a great feeling. I was really proud of our team. The outcome was exactly what we wanted.''
In their first trip to state as a Class 3A team, the Cougars lost to eventual state champion Wheaton St. Francis 20-25, 10-25 before rebounding to beat Chicago Payton 25-20, 25-13 in the third-place match.
The Cougars will graduate seven seniors -- Makenzie Jackson, Lydia Rehkemper, Maisie Kampwerth, Taylor Rakers, Lauren Willis, Torre Kohrmann and Timmermann -- from this year's squad.
"Next year, I think we'll be well-rounded as a team,'' Cook said. "I don't think we'll be as quite as skillful as this group was. That was another thing that helped Maddie, too. She played with a very skillful group. This group I have coming back learned a lot from the practices and watching the seniors.
"We're not going to replace Maddie. We just have to retool and reload and go after it with what we have.''
Timmermann, 18, the daughter of Tracy Timmermann of Breese and Nick Timmermann of St. Rose, will continue her volleyball career at Maryville University.
"It's a really good academic school and it's not really far from home and one of my best friends goes there,'' Timmermann said of her decision to play for the Saints.
Former Mater Dei outside hitter Ali Lampen plays for the Saints. Timmermann and Lampen became friends playing on the same select basketball team in grade school.
Timmermann currently averages a team-high 13.8 points per game for a Cougars girls basketball team that has gotten off to a 10-0 start.
Timmermann is aiming for a trip to the Class 2A girls state basketball tournament.
"That would mean the world to me because I'm not going to play basketball again after this year and our team works really hard every day in practice and we push really hard,'' Timmermann said. "We want to go there so bad. That would be awesome.''
Cook was chosen as the Class 3A-4A Coach of the Year, edging out O'Fallon's Melissa Massey and Mascoutah's Todd Gober.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.