The Highland volleyball Bulldogs made Senior Night a bit more extra special after pulling off a real rare win by toppling perennial powerhouse Mater Dei 25-11, 25-23 Thursday night.
It is believed to be just the second time in school history that Highland has felled the volleyball giants from Breese in Clinton County. The last time it happened was in 1998.
“It is so awesome, and I am super proud of them,” Highland coach Tina Beyer said. “They played awesome all around and were very well balanced. And our fans were outstanding tonight, and we really appreciated that.”
The first game was tied at 6-6 before Highland took complete control by reeling off 14 straight points, 13 of which came on the serve of senior outside hitter Sarah Beth Wiegman, including a pair of aces. The Bulldogs coasted to a 25-11 victory.
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The second game was much a more competitive see-saw battle before the Bulldogs pulled it out late for a 25-23 win to secure the match triumph in straight sets.
“It’s a lot of excitement for all of us and we were all ready to win,” Highland senior setter Megan Frey said. “Senior Night gave us a lot of confidence and motivation out there. We were ready for this one. It was a big one for us because it was our last one. With seven seniors on this team, it couldn’t have gone any better. Winning our tournament last weekend (Oct. 7-8) really pulled us together tightly.”
Highland was very well balanced with four different players registering at least five kills.
LaPorta, Wiegman and Diercks all hammered down six kills apiece and Wellen pounded out five kills.
LaPorta also supplied 11 digs, one ace, two service points and one block. Wiegman also provided six digs, 14 service points and the two aces. Wellen also chipped in seven digs, two blocks and one ace and Diercks also had two blocks.
Also contributing numbers for the Bulldogs were: senior setter Sarah Frank with 12 assists, five service points and two digs; Frey with five assists and one ace; sophomore libero Emmy Nyquist with three digs and two service points; senior right-side hitter Amanda Korsemeyer with two kills; and senior middle hitter Hayley Taylor with one kill, one block and one dig.
“They were excited and wanted to get it started and I was super pleased,” Beyer said. “They were capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes, which is what we need to. That was awesome. Then it was the opposite of that in the second game where it was back and forth, back and forth. I’ll take it because they duked it out every single point and never got down. They made the necessary adjustments and it was a very good and exciting game.”
And the rare triumph over the Knights could not have come at a better time, since this is Beyer’s final year of coaching.
“I love them, and I love volleyball. I want the program to be great, and it’s working well, and I am super proud for the part that I’ve played,” she said. “I am going to miss it, but I couldn’t ask for a better team to finish on. You are always looking for that team that can put all of the pieces together, and I really think that’s the case here. This is a really great group of girls, and they are setting all kinds of records so that youngsters coming up through the program work towards and aspire to be like them.”
O’Fallon Autumn Classic
Over the weekend, the Bulldogs went on to shatter the school records for wins in a single season after going 3-1-1 and taking third place in the Gold Division at the O’Fallon Autumn Classic. Highland catapulted its overall record to 29-2-1 to break the previous mark of 28 wins set by the squad from the fall of 2011.
On Friday, the Bulldogs easily swept by Metro-East Lutheran 25-14, 25-11 before going on to split two games with Triad, 25-11, 23-25. (A deciding third set was not played, as would normally be the case, because of the tournament’s formatting.)
Then, on Saturday morning, Highland edged Pekin in straight sets, 25-21, 25-23, to tie the school record for wins at 28 before falling 15-25, 11-25 to Marist (Chicago) in the semifinals of the Gold Division.
However, the Bulldogs bounced back strong to take down Centennial Central, 25-19, 25-19 and stand alone as the winningest team in program history.
“We definitely had a goal of becoming the winningest team in school history and we proved we were capable,” Highland senior outside hitter Madison Wellen said. “After a tough loss against Chicago Marist, we bounced back and got the win against Champaign. We all played really well this weekend, and we will use this momentum to go into next week with the two biggest conference games of the season, Waterloo and Mascoutah.”
Middle hitters Alex LaPorta and Claire Diercks were named to the O’Fallon Autumn Classic All-Tournament Team. in the five tourney matches, LaPorta, a senior, racked up 33 kills 34 digs, eight total blocks, 27 service points and two aces while the sophomore Diercks chalked up 23 kills.
LaPorta was an all-tournament selection in all four tournaments after leading the Bulldogs to the championships at the Carbondale, Granite City, Highland and O’Fallon tourneys.
HHS beats Champaign Central
LaPorta recorded match highs in kills (eight) and digs (10). She also added a team-best two blocks to go along with five service points, one ace and one assist.
Also providing balance offensively were Wiegman with six kills, Wellen and Korsmeyer with four kills each, and Diercks with three kills.
Wiegman also added five digs, six service poitns and two aces while Wellen also had six digs, three service points and one ace.
Additionally, Korsmeyer also had one block and one assist.
Also logging stats for Highland were: Frey with 10 assists, one kill, three service points, one ace and one dig; Frank with 11 assists, two digs and two service points; Nyquist with three digs, eight service points and one ace; and Taylor with one kill and one block.
HHS loses to Marist
Highland tabbed a season-low seven kills as a team, with LaPorta producing five of them. She also had team highs in blocks (two) and digs (five).
The only other successful kills for HHS were one each from Wiegman and Taylor.
Frey added four digs, two assists, seven service points and her team’s only two aces while Frank had three assists and one dig.
Also getting digs for the Bulldogs were Wellen (four), Nyquist (three) and Wiegman (two).
HHS beats Pekin
LaPorta again topped the match in both kills (nine) and digs (11). She also supplied one block and seven service points.
Diercks slammed down seven kills and also had one block and one assist.
Also providing numbers for Highland were: Wiegman with four kills, four digs, one block and seven service points; Wellen with three kills, seven digs, three service points and one ace; Frey with 18 assists; Frank with seven assists, three service points and one ace; Korsmeyer with three kills; Taylor with two kills, one block and one assist; and Nyquist with four digs.
HHS splits with Triad
LaPorta and Diercks shared high honors with six kills apiece. LaPorta also had four digs, six service points, one ace and one block.
Wellen was the top Bulldog with seven digs. She also registered four kills, one block and four service points while Wiegman chipped in three kills, three digs, one block, three service points, one ace and one assist.
Also contributing stats were: Frank with 10 assists, four service points and three aces; Frey with nine assists, two digs, seven service points and one ace; Korsmeyer with two kills; Taylor with one kill, one block and one assist; and Nyquist with four service points.
HHS beats Metro-East Lutheran
In this match, Diercks’ match-best seven kills made her the only other Bulldog besides LaPorta to lead the Bulldogs in kills throughout the tournament.
Highland had a healthy balance in the match as LaPorta, Wiegman and Wellen all hammered out five kills apiece and Taylor pounded down four kills.
Wellen also showed the way with 10 digs to go with seven service points and one assist. Wiegman also logged seven digs, eight service points and three aces. LaPorta also recorded five digs, eight service points and one assist.
Also supplying numbers were: Frank with 12 assists, five digs and one service point; Frey with 11 assists, four digs and two service points; Taylor with two blocks; Nyquist with four digs; and Korsmeyer with one kill and one assist.
The chase for the Mississippi Valley Conference championship is a three-team battle between Highland three-time defending champion Mascoutah and Waterloo.
Highland (7-1 MVC) traveled to Waterloo (7-2) on Tuesday and travels to Mascoutah (7-1) on Thursday.