In many years, the intensity and drama of the long-running Belleville West-Althoff volleyball rivalry created an electric atmosphere that made for thrilling matches before huge crowds.
Tuesday was not one of those nights as Belleville West had little difficulty in a 25-18, 25-12 victory over their city rivals in an extremely quiet West gymnasium.
“We came out kind of flat,” said West coach Lauren DeGirolamo, whose 17-1 squad will be the No. 2 seed behind St. Louis power Ursuline this weekend at the Belleville East Metro Classic tournament. “We came out and made more errors than I’ve ever seen us make in a game before and we didn’t have a whole lot of energy.
“I told them if you can’t get excited for an Althoff-Belleville West game ... come on. That used to always be a huge rivalry.”
DeGirolamo played for West while in high school and Althoff coach Sara Thomas Dietrich also played for the school she now coaches. Neither could remember a quieter gym in a series that has featured so many great players and matches through the years.
“Sometimes I felt like I was louder than the fans of both teams yelling to my girls,” Dietrich said. “It was so strange.”
West senior Nicole Braner had a team-high six kills and senior Kayla Juenger added five, with sophomore Kaylee Hanger contributing four. Maroons’ setters Sam Schell and Kacie Kinnikin handed out eight assists each while Ali Hanger picked up eight digs.
Braner had four of her six kills during a first set that saw the Maroons struggle with the Crusaders (9-8) for a time. West had an 18-17 lead when the Maroons went on a four-point run with Braner serving up three of the points and Kinnikin adding a pair of kills.
“I was hitting a lot better tonight than I normally do and I wasn’t passing as well, so my team kind of picked me up on that,” Braner said.
AIDING THE ENEMY
Unforced errors came far too frequently for Althoff, which had trouble stringing together much offensive consistency. Althoff got four kills from junior Emily Myatt and three kills and two blocks from senior Central Arkansas recruit Alanna Bramwell.
“It’s our mistakes,” Dietrich said. “We’re still making too many mistakes. We’ve got to start learning from our mistakes and putting it into action. I know they want it, but we’ve still got to figure it out.”
Dietrich also said the 6-foot-2 Bramwell was dealing with some knee issues.
“Alanna’s knee is really hurting her,” Dietrich said. “She wasn’t able to go off of one foot and that’s a big part of our game. It has (bothered her) since the summertime, but it’s been pretty much under control.”
Eleven of Althoff’s 18 points in the first set came on West errors.
“In the second game we bounced back and played a little bit better,” DeGirolamo said. “That continues to show me that the girls are thinking about it. They’re not going to get down on themselves and they keep fighting. They’re going to be able to push through even when it’s not their night.”
Belleville West is at Gibault on Thursday and Althoff plays host to Carbondale, also on Thursday.