Mascoutah volleyball coach Todd Gober was wary of his Indians’ Class 3A Mascoutah Regional championship match Thursday against Mississippi Valley Conference rival Highland.
But the Indians put Gober in a relaxed state with a 25-14, 25-19 victory that gave them their 30th victory of the season and advanced them to the Herrin Sectional.
“I thought they were playing some of their best volleyball toward the end of the season,” Gober said of the Bulldogs. “They looked really sharp Tuesday night against Waterloo.
“We had a good plan coming in and I thought our girls did a nice job sticking on to it, because both games started out close and went back-and-forth up until we were able to extend it out toward the middle of each game.”
Mascoutah, which defeated Triad in the semifinals, improved to 30-7 and will face Carbondale in the sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The teams did not meet in the regular season.
Highland, which lost for the third time this season to the Indians, finished 24-12.
“We knew, going against Highland, we had to serve tough,” Gober said. “That’s the only way to really neutralize Haley McSparin and their other big middle (hitter), Alex LaPorta. So we had to serve tough. We had to make it so it was hard to set them and then we felt we could play defense and get good counterattacks against their other hitters. It paid off.”
McSparin, an Alabama recruit, enjoyed her good moments. Gober, however, credited Mascoutah senior Megan Lindsay, a Murray State recruit, for elevating her game in a clutch situation, and Lindsay had plenty help from senior Amanda Jung.
“I think it was 23-19 and we were feeling some pressure,” Gober said. “But Amanda got a good kill and then she went back and got the ace to win the match. And, of course, Megan Lindsay is playing very good volleyball right now. She’s hitting the ball hard, playing smart, cutting down her errors and her defense has been very strong. She’s playing at a high level right now.”
The 30 victories are a personal-high for Gober at Mascoutah.
“(Highland) had a great year and they’re a very good team,” he said. “That makes this even more rewarding when you win a regional. We beat a good team and it feels good tonight.”
Gober said the Indians know nothing about Carbondale.
“But the good thing is they haven’t seen or heard anything about us, probably,” Gober said. “I like our team when it’s seeing an opponent for the first time. We’re able to pick things up pretty quickly. We like to think we can make adjustments on the fly. That’s something we’ve worked on all year.”
Trico upsets Gibault
The Gibault Hawks, seeking their third consecutive regional championship, never could find their rhythm in a 25-22, 25-22 loss to Trico in the Class 2A Red Bud Regional.
“It reminded me very much of the regional finals last year when we won. We came in with literally nothing to lose,” Gibault coach Heather Lazarides said of a 25-20, 25-23 victory over Nashville. “Trico played really loose, but for some reason, my girls were very apprehensive to make mistakes. Sometimes playing safe is the most dangerous thing you can do.
“Trico was free and easy and just played. My girls were overthinking and didn’t play.”
The Pioneers advance to the semifinals of the Nashville Sectional, where they will play the Anna-Jonesboro Wildcats at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Gibault finished 25-12.
Lazarides said it was a complete team loss.
“We didn’t come close to playing to our potential,” she said. “(Trico) set the tempo early and played to win. The mental aspect of the game, it’s very hard to put your finger on it.
“I think my girls had a higher volleyball IQ than they do, but I think that volleyball IQ is what shot them in the foot. They overthought everything. All my seniors struggled mentally because they were all afraid of losing. We had a bunch of momentum-killers.”
Valmeyer, Metro-East win
In the Class 1A Marissa Regional championship, Valmeyer defeated New Athens 25-20, 25-16 to advance to the Norris City Sectional. The Pirates (23-11) will play Marion in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
In the Class 1A Metro-East Lutheran championship, the host Knights survived a difficult struggle against Lebanon 22-25, 25-19, 25-21.
Metro-East will play Clay City or St. Elmo in the St. Elmo Sectional at 6 p.m. Tuesday.