Highland High volleyball coach Tina Beyer thought her team wasn’t moving and reacting as fast as she would have liked so she recently tweaked her lineup.
Beyer moved junior Alex LaPorta from the strong side to share the middle position with senior Hayley McSparin, while junior Sarah Beth Wiegman moved up from her former libero position to fill the vacant left-side hitting spot left by LaPorta.
Even with the changes, LaPorta still never comes off the floor while Wiegman provides a competent attack on the strong side and still provides her defensive prowess in the back row.
The changes worked on Saturday as Highland hammered its four opponents to captured the championship of the Granite City Tournament, which was played as a round-robin format.
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The Lady Bulldogs (8-2) swept all four foes in straight sets: Civic Memorial (25-10, 25-11), Granite City (25-13, 25-6), Piasa Southwestern (25-10, 25-9) and Red Bud (25-21, 25-17).
McSparin was named the Granite City Tournament MVP while LaPorta joined McSparin on the Granite City All-Tournament Team.
McSparin, a University of Alabama recruit, pounded down double-digit kills in three of the four matches en route to totaling 47 kills and LaPorta finished with 28 kills to lead Highland to the dominant performance.
”We came in and got the job done,” McSparin said. “We each had a job and did it. Our serve and serve receive was very good.”
Winning the tournament was a big rebound for Highland after suffering a devastating defeat in a match the Lady Bulldogs had all but wrapped up last Thursday night against Mississippi Valley Conference rival Triad. Highland won the first set, 25-9, and had match point, 24-15, in the second game before the Knights improbably stormed back to pull out the second set 28-26. Triad then went on to take the match with a 25-19 victory in the third set.
“I definitely think winning that tournament was a good bounce back for us,” said junior outside hitter Madison Wellen. “ Everyone seemed to be connecting and doing their job on the court. We gelled really well together on Saturday and I think that it was a step forward for the rest of the season.”
Senior right-side hitter Alyssa Anderson said the team plays a lot better when they carry the momentum of the game.
“When we let other teams control the game, we don’t play to the best of our abilities,” she said. “But we tend to click better when we play the game faster. Saturday didn’t come as a surprise to me due to the fact that I know we all had each others backs, so we played to the best of our abilities. I am happy to be a part of such a great team. We all put in work in the gym with coach Beyer pushing us everyday so there is no way we shouldn’t go far this season.”
Against Red Bud, McSparin slammed down an amazing 17 kills out of 26 attacks to go along with four digs.
Other statistical leaders for the Lady Bulldogs were Wiegman with 15 digs, senior setter Sami Beyer with 31 setting assists and Anderson with 11 service points and two service aces.
Also producing key numbers for Highland were Wellen with six kills, 13 digs and six service points, LaPorta with five kills, 10 digs, six service points and two aces, Beyer with 10 digs, Wiegman with four kills, Anderson with two kills and one dig and freshman libero Emmy Nyquist with four digs.
In the Piasa Southwestern match, McSparin smacked down 12 kills on 14 attacks to go with one block, five service points, one ace and four digs.
LaPorta and Wiegman were stout all around. LaPorta put down nine kills (on 14 attacks) to go with seven digs, five service points and one block while Wiegman added five kills (on six attacks), 11 service points, four aces, five digs and one assist.
Also contributing to the triumph were Beyer with 26 assists and one dig, Wellen with six kills, one block, five service points and three digs, Anderson with one kill, six service points, one ace and one dig, Nyquist with four digs and senior Cassie Lamzik with two digs.
Compiling the following stats in the thumping of Granite City were: McSparin with 10 kills, one block, four service points and two digs, LaPorta with seven kills, five service points, three aces, two digs and setting assist, Beyer with 18 setting assists and three digs, Wiegman with five kills, six digs, four service points, one ace and one setting assist, Anderson with 10 service points, three aces and two digs, Wellen with one kill, four digs and two service points, Nyquist with four digs and Lamzik with one dig.
Producing the following stats in the rout of CM were: McSparin with eight kills, 12 service points, four aces, five digs and one setting assist, LaPorta with seven kills, three blocks, two aces, four service points and four digs, Wiegman with six kills, eight digs and four service points, Wellen with 10 digs, three kills, six service points and one ace, Beyer with 21 setting assists, five service points, one ace and two digs, Anderson with one kill, one block, one dig and one service points, and Nyquist with two digs.
In Highland’s heart-breaking loss to Triad, McSparin and Wiegman both hit double digits in kills with 15 and 12, respectively. McSparin also tabulated 11 service points, three aces, two blocks and one setting assist while Wiegman also added five service points and three aces.
In addition, Beyer dished out 22 setting assists and had nine service points; LaPorta chipped in seven kills, two blocks, six service points, two aces and two setting assists; Anderson supplied four kills, one block, five service points, one ace and one setting assist; and Wellen had three kills, six service points and one setting assist.
In a 25-13, 25-22 win over CM on Tuesday of last week, McSparin and LaPorta each hammered down 11 kills apiece. McSparin also added five digs, two blocks, four service points and two aces while LaPorta also had eight digs, one block, five service points and one ace.
Wellen led the way with 11 digs while Beyer topped the team with 22 setting assists and nine service points. Beyer also added five digs and two aces and Wellen also had two kills and three service points.
Also contributing in the dominant victory were Wiegman with nine digs, one kill and one ace, Anderson with three digs, one kill, two service points and one setting assist and Nyquist with three digs.