It was the season-opening volleyball match for Mascoutah on Thursday and second for the Mater Dei Knights.
But with a huge crowd on hand to watch two of the top teams in Southern Illinois trading kills and points, Mater Dei’s thrilling 21-25, 25-16, 28-26 victory was easily worthy of a sectional final or even a super-sectional.
Mater Dei (2-0) was ranked first in the News-Democrat preseason large-school volleyball rankings while Mascoutah (0-1) was third, but all this night of net drama provided was a glimpse of two elite teams going at each other like the final two cars in a demolition derby.
Mater Dei senior Kelly Voss helped fuel the Knights’ comeback with10 kills, 28 digs and 15 service points. Erica Lampe added seven kills, Kat Maue had five and Erica Hitpas was a defensive machine with 27 digs and a perfect 21-for-21 rate on serve receives.
Brooke Remmert and Katie Haake combined for 31 assists.
“That’s the kind of game that everybody expected, right?” Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers said. “I thought going into the season that this was a real-deal kind of team and Mascoutah was going to be up to handle anybody in this area. They came out and showed us in Game 1.
“We picked it up second game and that third game ... that’s why you come out and watch high school volleyball in this area.”
With Mascoutah’s Murray State recruit Megan Lindsay raining down four of her match-high high 14 kills in the first set, the Indians pounded out a 25-21 win.
Mascoutah broke on top 6-2 in the second set, then the Knights rebounded with an 8-0 run that included seven straight service points by Voss. Mater Dei rode that momentum to a 25-16 win, then held off a furious comeback bid by the Indians to close out the match.
“You can’t get satisfied with winning one and I don’t know that our players were doing that,” Mascoutah coach Todd Gober said. “But I think there’s that hunger that you refuse to lose. We’re getting that and I see a lot of it in this team. I saw a lot of that in the third (set).
“I thought we lost a little composure in the second one when we jumped out to an early lead, let down a little bit, they got the momentum and we never had the composure to get it back. My girls really wanted it.”
Along with Lindsay’s 14 kills, Mascoutah got seven from sophomore Tieghan Morio and six kills and eight blocks from junior Katirah Johnson. Lacey Albers supplied another eight blocks.
Down 20-14 in the third set, Mascoutah rallled to tie it 21-21 and kept it tied at 24, 25 and 26. But the Knights didn’t panic and never relinquished the lead, getting a kill from Voss to go up 27-26 before a mishit by the Indians ignited a Mater Dei celebration.
“In the third one we were playing catch-up the whole game,” Gober said. “We finally tie it up and I thought OK, it’s going to be enough. I’ve got to give it to them, I felt they had very good composure throughout the match. Ours wavered a little bit, I thought we were learning it as we were going.”
Rakers was relieved to be heading back to the Breese with a win.
“You hate to see it end the way it did,” he said. “I’d rather see it end on a ball that was smashed to the floor, but you’ve got to love having this kind of intensity this early in the year.”
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Rakers thought the play of Lampe, a senior who had several laser kills down the sideline and along the back row, made a difference.
“The girl’s got guts,” Rakers said. “It’s something that I knew about her a long time ago and I’ve been waiting foor her to bring it out here. I love the way that she just attacks.”