The Edwardsville Tigers were near perfect in an opening game win over O’Fallon at the Panther Dome on Thursday evening. In the unbiased oppinion of coach Andy Bersett, his team was even better in game two.
Continuing to make an early season statement, Edwardsville got nine kills and 10 digs form senior Will Frank and a season high 22 assists from senior setter Jake Vandever as it rolled past O’Fallon 25-8, 25-21 in a Southwestern Conference volleyball match.
Just two nights after opening SWC play against Belleville East, Edwardsville needed just 15 minutes to win game one against a young Panthers squad, which was playing just its second match of the season.
But game two proved to be a different story. Getting early momentum from a three-point service run from Austin Minor, O’Fallon played the taller and more experienced Tigers down to the wire. A kill by senior middle blocker Doug Jones and a block by outside hitter Mike Horton broke open a close game and gave Edwardsville a 24-20 lead.
Seconds later, Jones poured down another kill on match point.
“I thought we played a good opening game but from my point I thought we played better in the second game,” Bersett said. “Everybody has been through games like game one where you get out a good start and things just kind of build from there. But O’Fallon’s a good, young team and we knew we would have a much tougher time of it in game two. But we responded well when they pushed us and that was good to see.”
O’Fallon (1-1), which opened its season with a win over Granite City on Tuesday, was simply overwhelmed from the outset of game one. With Vandever serving, Frank, a 6-foot-7 outside hitter, had a block and kill and Horton added a kill as part of a 6-0 start for the Tigers.
A kill by Minor ended the streak for a momment, but Frank followed by serving an ace and Jack Grimm added a kill. When the stunned Panthers committed a hitting error on the next point, Edwardsville had a 10-1 lead not five minutes into the match.
“I don’t know if we were a little intimidated early in the first game or what it was. We got off to a slow start and it just kind of spiraled down from there. It was just one of those game where nothing went right,” Panthers coach Katelyn Hagarty said. “But to Edwardsville’s credit, they are a very good team with a lot of size and hitting power. That wasn’t the way my team can play in game one.
“I was proud of the way we battled back and played in game two. We’ll keep working hard and we’ll keep improving. I look forward to the next time we play them.
Edwardsville (5-3, 2-0 in the SWC) had a much tougher time in game two. Led by senior Alex Belongy and outside hitter Luke Meidel, O’Fallon took leads of 14-13 and 16-15. Meidel’s second kill in four points gave the Panthers their final lead of the night.
Frank tied the game at 16 on a kill and with sophomore Nick Allen serving, Frank added a second kill to give his team the lead for good
Allen followed with an ace to increase the Tigers lead to 18-16 before Jones and Horton put the match away with strong play down the stretch.
The win over O’Fallon coupled with the victory over Belleville East gives Bersett and the Tigers a really good start in SWC play.
“Every year it seems our first two league games are against O’Fallon and Belleville East,” Bersett said. “It’s always tough but to be 2-0 in the conference, we’re very pleased with that. We just need to continue to get better.”