After years of playing in one of the area’s smallest and oldest gyms, the Red Bud Musketeers volleyball team has a new place to call its own.
While the boys and girls basketball teams moved into the new gym last season, this fall marked the first season the volleyball team was able to compete in the new facility. Red Bud also decided to host its own Red Bud Invitational tournament and came away with the championship last weekend.
“(Red Bud Athletic Director) Kevin Cartee and I had been talking about it a while and we didn’t have facilities with enough size to running anything before,” said Erin Legendre, now in her fourth season as the volleyball coach at Red Bud after coaching nine seasons at O’Fallon. “We started working last winter on getting some teams and we wanted it to be competitive to gear up for the postseason.”
Red Bud (13-11-2) advanced out of pool play and beat Cahokia Conference rival Wesclin 23-21, 21-18 in the championship match as sophomore Morgan Cowell led the way with seven kills.
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“It was pretty special,” Legendre said of winning the title. “We have an exciting kind of young team and at some points we had five sophomores out on the floor. They were ready to take home the big trophy finally.
“We knew there were going to be growing pains this year having so many young starters. We’ve had a really good core group of leadership from the seniors and the young players have stepped in well.”
Cowell was one of three Red Bud players on the all-tournament team along with senior outside hitter Claudia Mehring and sophomore setter Makenzie Harbaugh.
“We didn’t show up very strong against Wesclin in our last conference match, so the girls were ready to play to our full potential,” said Legendre, whose team will face Wesclin again Thursday in another conference match.
Earlier this season, Red Bud finished second at the Granite City Tournament and third at the Marissa Tournament.
In the semifinal match against Granite City, Mehring fired off a rare19-point service run that included three aces. She had eight aces in the tourney overall.
“She’s got a great jump-serve and was just on fire, “ Legendre said. “It was pretty crazy.”
Columbia (23-4) wrapped up the Cahokia Conference-Mississippi Division title Tuesday with a 25-22, 25-17 victory over Freeburg. That moved the Eagles to 8-0 in conference play while Freeburg (16-7) suffered its first league defeat.
Columbia has won 13 of its last 15 matches with the lone defeats during that span coming to Cor Jesu and Highland at the Belleville East Metro Classic. The Eagles’ kill leaders are juniors Colleen Hamilton (196) and Alyssa Yochum (152).
Highland Bulldogs off the chain
It’s not usually a surprise when the home team wins its own tournament. But the Highland Bulldogs sent a few shock waves around the metro-east by knocking off then top-ranked O’Fallon on the way to winning their sixth annual Highland Bulldogs Invitational.
Highland (19-7) won all four of its games at the round-robin tourney and is working on a seven-game winning streak that includes a forfeit win over East St. Louis.
“I think right now we are playing our best volleyball all season, and these were really quality teams,” Highland coach Tina Beyer told the Highland News-Leader after winning the tournament. “So, this was a great weekend and I am really pleased with the way we are playing.”
Highland won the tourney by defeating Alton (25-15, 25-22), O’Fallon (13-25, 25-15, 15-13), Carbondale (25-20, 25-16) and Central (25-15, 25-18).
The lone defeat dropped O’Fallon to second place while Carbondale finished third,
Highland placed senior Alabama recruit Hayley McSparin, senior setter Sami Beyer and junior Alex La Porta on the all-tournament team. McSparin, who had 12 kills, four blocks and five service points in the upset of O’Fallon, earned all-tourney honors for the third year in a row.
La Porta had 19 digs, six kills and two blocks against O’Fallon.
The Bulldogs drew a No. 5 seed in their Class 3A sub-sectional and would need to beat Cahokia and Waterloo at the Mascoutah Regional to get another shot at top-seeded Mascoutah. Highland lost to Mascoutah 25-19, 25-18 earlier this season and the Mississippi Valley Conference rivals also meet Oct. 22 in the regular-season finale.
Former Edwardsville standout Sam Epenesa, a senior outside hitter for 18th-ranked Purdue, ranks third in kills for the Boilermakers with 95, averaging 2.21 per match. Purdue is 15-2 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten.
O’Fallon High graduate Katie Roustio is a junior at Illinois who has 60 kills in 10 matches for the Fighting Illini.
Former Mater Dei setter Sam Bedard, now a senior at Murray State, has been named Ohio Valley Conference Setter of the Week for the second time in three weeks and fourth time this season. Bedard averaged a conference-leading 12.8 assists per set in wins over Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville,
Bedard leads Murray State (16-1) with 615 assists, averaging 11.39 per match.
There’s always a large local contingent at Division I South Carolina Upstate, where the head coach is Jennifer Calloway, daughter of former Mater Dei coach Fred Rakers and sister of current Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers.
The team’s top two kills leaders are both Mater Dei graduates, junior Emily Koelling (214 kills) and freshman Madi Haake (201 kills). Another Mater Dei grad, senior Kayla Eversgerd, is fourth with 119 kills, while Edwardsville High graduate Lexi Gober is a senior setter averaging 8.5 assists for the Spartans (12-9). Gober is the daughter of Mascoutah coach Todd Gober.
BND Girls Volleyball Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses; records through Tuesday:
Large-school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
Belleville West (3)
Mater Dei (1)
Also receiving votes: Columbia (23-4), Highland (19-7), Freeburg (16-7), Belleville East (8-13), Alton (22-10-2)
Small-school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Valmeyer (19-9), Wesclin (10-10), Carlyle (6-7), Dupo (11-14-1)