Winning feels pretty much the same no matter when or how it occurs.
Just ask the Mater Dei Knights, who won their first Class 4A volleyball regional in school history Thursday with a 25-21 25-20 victory over the top-seeded Belleville West Maroons at the West Regional.
“It feels exactly the same,” said Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers, whose 30-7 squad finished third at the Class 3A state tournament last season before making the jump to 4A for 2015. “I want my girls to experience success, that’s why I do what I do. The screaming and the yelling and the hugging that they’re doing over there, that’s the reason I coach.”
There was a lot of celebrating being done by the Knights.
“It’s so exciting I just can’t believe it,” said Mater Dei senior Kat Maue, who got the Knights turned around from an early 4-1 deficit with a four-point service run in the first set that included three consecutive aces. “We just knew we had to work twice as hard and that’s what we did. We just came out swinging. We kept putting the pressure on them.”
Mater Dei will face O’Fallon (31-5) in the Springfield Sectional semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alton High School. O’Fallon beat Mater Dei in two sets in their only previous meeting this season.
REMATCH HAS DIFFERENT OUTCOME
Belleville West (33-4) had beaten the Knights in three sets earlier this season on the same floor.
This time the Maroons seemed a bit out of sync and a bit nervous, according to coach Lauren DeGirolamo. They never scored more than four points in a row.
I want my girls to experience success that’s why I do what I do. The screaming and the yelling and the hugging that they’re doing over there, that’s the reason I coach.
Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers
“We were just a little off,” said DeGirolamo whose club committed 16 errors. “I think it was because (the West players)just wanted it so bad. They were playing so tight because they wanted it and you can’t be upset about being wanting to win.
“We can’t let this loss diminish what we did this whole season. The girls had a really great year and kind of brought our program back into spots that it was in the past. The loss is going to hurt, you can see them walking around crying. But I told them once that goes away you can look back on the season and think of it as a success.”
Mater Dei got five kills from Erica Lampe and four from Kelly Voss, who also contributed 18 digs. Brooke Remmert had 13 assists for the Knights.
Rakers pointed to the early service run by Maue, who had seven service points along with with A.J. Hallemann, as a big momentum builder.
“Wow, how big was she in that first set?” Rakers said. “That was huge. She has some matches where she’s really tough to pass (on). That run was one of those times and it took us making a mistake to end that run.”
DeGirolamo also noticed the momentum swing created by Maue’s rocket serves.
We can’t let this loss diminish what we did this whole season. The girls had a really great year and kind of brought our program back into spots that it was in the past.
West coach Lauren DeGirolamo
“We had a little trouble with her topspin serve,” DeGirolamo said. “We had a little trouble receiving, period, in that first game. “
There was never a big gap between the teams as West kept fighting back from deficits all night.
The Maroons got to within 19-18 the first set on a block by Abby Hobbs then stayed within 23-21 on a kill by Kayla Juenger. Mater Dei won the set on a kill by Erica Lampe and a West error.
“We didn’t play our best volleyball tonight,” DeGirolamo said. “Partially I think that’s because Mater Dei came out and played well, but I also think we were a little bit tight and a little bit nervous. Nothing really seemed to go our way tonight.”
West got eight kills from Juenger and seven kills and nine digs from Kaylee Hanger. Kacie Kinnikin contrubuted 13 assists and Sam Schell had 10.
Despite the intense atmosphere and large vocal crowd, Mater Dei seemed dialed in all night.
“We’ve been working so hard to not let negative emotions be a part of our game,” Rakers said. “I think tonight that’s what you saw. You saw us clean, controlled ... and that’s the way we want to play.”