The Highland High School volleyball team traveled to Triad and outdueled the Knights in straight sets, 25-21, 25-21 on Tuesday, Oct. 3 before going 4-1 and earning second place at its own Highland Invitational Tournament, held Friday and Saturday at Highland Middle School.
Highland opened the tournament on Friday with a lopsided 25-5, 25-17 victory over Alton, then came back to edge out Carbondale, 25-23, 24-26, 15-9, and avenge a defeat earlier this season to the Terriers at the Carbondale Tournament.
Then on Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs suffered their only defeat in their past 16 matches in a 16-25, 23-25 loss to Breese Central. It was the second time the Cougars have beaten Highland this season.
But the Lady Bulldogs bounced back with a 25-22, 25-20 win over East St. Louis before finishing up with a domineering 25-17, 25-14 over Altamont and clinch second place.
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In addition for Highland, junior middle hitter Claire Diercks and junior libero Emmy Nyquist were named to the Highland Invitational All-Tournament Team after Diercks ranked first on the team in kills and Nyquist led the squad in digs. It was the second straight tourney the duo has garnered all-tournament recognition after also doing so at the Granite City Classic on Sept. 16.
Also playing key roles in the Lady Bulldogs’ success in the tournament and all season long are junior middle hitters, Jennessa Kimmle and Megan Ramsey, sophomore setter Megan Vidmar, senior right-side hitter Megan Sands and junior right-side hitter Abby Beyer.
“It’s really good to finish second,” Diercks said. “We came out and beat Carbondale, which is huge for us, because we lost to them at the beginning of the season, and we came out this time and played strong and got them. We’re gelling a lot better now.”
Overall, Highland reeled off an amazing 14-1-1 stretch of volleyball that has propelled the Lady Bulldogs’ overall record to an outstanding 20-4-1.
“We have been playing really well. We were a little up and down this morning (in the loss to Central), but we were able to get back into our groove,” said Highland first-year coach Katelyn Hagarty. “We want to just keep going up from here, so we’re excited about the last two weeks of the regular season and looking forward to postseason. I am happy with second place, especially since we lost to two of these teams earlier in the season, and to come back and beat one of them is great. That is really nice to know that we can go out there and not back down from anybody and get the job done.”
The win over Triad kept Highland undefeated in the Mississippi Valley Conference at 7-0 and on the inside track for its first conference crown in six years.
“We’re ready to win the conference, and we just have to keep pushing through it,” Diercks said.
Hagarty added, “We are playing really well in conference, and we have three more conference games, so hopefully we can finish out undefeated and take that into postseason.”
Highland’s last three MVC matches were this past Tuesday at Jerseyville, Tuesday, Oct. 17 at home against Waterloo and Thursday, Oct. 19 at home against Mascoutah for senior night.
The Lady Bulldogs also travel to Mater Dei this Thursday before competing in the O’Fallon Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
For the postseason, Highland drew the No. 3 seed and will compete in the IHSA Class 3A Jacksonville Regional. The Lady Bulldogs will first play No. 8 Effingham at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24 and would most likely face second-seeded Taylorville in the championship match at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26.