After helping lead the Althoff volleyball program to its first state title in November, sophomore middle blocker Karinna Gall could soon give the Crusaders some national exposure.
The 6-foot-1 Gall learned earlier this week that she is one of 35 finalists for the 2017 PrepVolleyball.com National High School Sophomore of the Year honor. The winner will be announced before the end of January.
“It’s amazing and just an incredible honor. There are so many great players around the nation and to be recognized as one of them is just really cool,” Gall said Thursday. “We had a tremendous season and winning the state championship just capped it off. It was just a great group of girls to work with.”
Third in the Class 2A state finals a year ago, Althoff may have been the top team in the state in any class during the 2017 season. After winning a three-game match with rival Mater Dei in the sectional final, the Crusaders went on to complete their dream season with a win over Chicago Resurrection in the state title match at Redbird Arena in Normal as they finished with a 41-1 record.
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And Gall was one of the leaders.
A two-year standout for coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich’s team, Gall was the top offensive weapon on a Crusaders squad loaded with talent. Gall finished the season with 313 kills in 87 games, an average of 3.8 kills per game, as she teamed with senior Addie Burris and sophomore Katie Wemhoener for over 760 kills.
There are so many great players around the nation and to be recognized as one of them is just really cool.
The Crusaders’ offense was directed by senior and News-Democrat Large School Player of the Year Louise Comerford, who dished out 834 assists.
“We were a very close group this year. There was no team drama and I think having the type of players we had and competing with them everyday at practice,” Gall said. “Having a setter like Louise (Comerford) was a big part of our success as well. She was a great passer and had the ability to get me the ball in a good position to score.”
Gall was much more than just a pure power player for the Crusaders. Showing her all-around skills, Gall also led the team in blocks with 78 while adding 41 aces and 126 digs.
But she was without question one of the premier hitters in the state, according to Thomas-Dietrich.
“When you lead a state championship team in kills and blocks, regardless of the year you are in school, it says a lot about that player. Karinna was a strong force on the floor who demanded the ball from Louise (Comerford) and was smart with the ball,” Thomas-Dietrich said. “She kept the blockers guessing what she would do next.
“Prep-Volleyball saw this in Karinna, which is why they named her one of the top 35 sophomores in the nation. Karinna is playing for a very strong club this off-season, which is only going to keep improving her skills and allow her to continue to be a strong force in high school.”
Gall is a member of the Rockwood (Missouri) Thunder Club team, which opens its tournament season Saturday.
When you lead a state championship team in kills and blocks, regardless of the year you are in school, it says a lot about that player.
Coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich
No matter how the final voting comes out for the National Sophomore Player of the Year, Gall will return to be one of the leaders of an Althoff team that will begin defense of its state title in late August.
Gall knows that she and her teammates will have their work cut out for them.
“We graduate our libero and one of our top hitters in Addie (Burris), plus we lose Louise (Comerford) our setter. We will be a very different team next year,” Gall said. “Losing Louise is big, but I know we’ll have another great setter who can come in and do the job.
“It would be really great to go back to state for a third year in a row. I think we can do it.”