After 12 consecutive wins to start the season, the Mater Dei Knights saw their volleyball winning streak end Saturday as suddenly as one of the laser kills delivered by Eureka junior Sydney Holt.
The 6-foot-1 Holt had seven kills in the first set of the Edwardsville Tiger Classic championship match and 11 overall as Eureka (Mo.) pounded the Knights in dominant fashion to win its first tournament title, 25-15, 25-16.
It was Eureka’s first Tiger Classic title while Mater Dei fell short in its bid to win its record 14th. Holt was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“They were that good today. That was the best match I saw them play throughout the weekend,” said Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers, whose team reached the finals by knocking off Edwardsville 25-20, 23-25, 15-13 in a tight semifinal match. “They came with guns a’blazing and we couldn’t have looked more on our heels. We’ve got to learn from it. We’ve got to take all the things that they did and figure out how we can shut that down and stop it.
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“It’s got to make us better If this game doesn’t make us better, then there’s no point in going home feeling (bad). “
Mater Dei lost to Bloomington in the 2014 tourney finale while Eureka finished third a year ago.
Eureka (6-1) also got six kills from sophomore Emma Lattimore while Mater Dei got five kills from Kat Maue.
Along with Holt’s lightning kills on the front line, the Wildcats were fueled by the acrobatic setting of sophomore Andi Ahlers and effective serving of junior Sophie Chellappa, Lattimore and sophomore Elena Becker.
Eureka had seven services aces and Lattimore had a seven-point service run in the second set.
“I think the biggest deal is they were just so efficient and effective,” Rakers said. “Their setter, their middle, their outside hitter ... those three were real-deal kids, so hats off to them for playing a great tournament and an awesome championship.”
Despite a roster with only two seniors, Eureka had a variety of weapons at its disposal, including several backwards sets and tips.
O’FALLON TAKES THIRD
After losing to Eureka in the semifinals following an emotional Saturday morning against Mascoutah, the O’Fallon Panthers finished their first Tiger Classic with third place. O’Fallon rallied from a 25-23 defeat against Southwestern Conference rival Edwardsville to post 25-16, 15-10 victories over the Tigers and win third place.
O’Fallon sophomore Elise Smith finished with 10 kills in the extremely tight match as the Panthers closed out a 4-1 tourney run.
“I’m so proud of our girls; coming out and placing third in this kind of tournament first time being in it,” O’Fallon coach Melissa Massey said. “We battled so hard this morning against Mascoutah. I felt like (we) thought that it was the championship game and kind of played flat for the rest of the day.
“Edwardsville’s a great team, Eureka’s an amazing team so if we could have just thrown Mater Dei in there we could have hit all the big dogs, right?”
Mascoutah lost 25-19, 14-25, 8-15 to Minooka in the fifth-place match while Freeburg finished 11th.
MVP-Holt; Kelly Voss and Kat Maue (Mater Dei), Mackenzie Koester and Anna Strake (O’Fallon), Rachel Pranger and Rachel Verdun (Edwardsville), Katirah Johnson and Megan Lindsay (Mascoutah), Lauren Davis (Bloomington), Ginger Perinar (Minooka), Chellapa and Ehlers (Eureka).