When your team hasn’t won a volleyball sectional championship since 1981, the celebrations are a bit louder, a little longer and, of course, much more intense.
Such was the case for the Mascoutah Indians on Thursday as they held on to defeat Columbia 25-19, 23-25, 25-11 to win the Class 3A Herrin Sectional championship in a match that was moved to Belleville West.
Keeping things local generated a packed house at West and the big crowd was treated to an intense display of volleyball that saw the Indians pull away in the third set to end Columbia’s 14-match winning streak.
“This is a huge, huge accomplishment for us and I’m really proud of my whole team,” said Mascoutah senior Amanda Jung, a Southern Indiana recruit who had seven kills while sophomore Tieghan Morio’s laser-like work at the net resulted in 12 kills. “There’s so many emotions right now, it’s just crazy. We played them before and the same thing happened.
“We knew we could come back in the third game; we’ve done it over and over and over. We just knew exactly what we had to do.”
Mascoutah (32-7) will face Quincy Notre Dame (34-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Wood River Super-Sectional with the Indians bidding for their first state tourney trip.
That’s a great rivalry match. It’s not Ohio State-Michigan yet, but by gosh in 3A volleyball it’s starting to build.
Mascoutah coach Todd Gober
“It is a big thing for our town, not just for our program,” said Mascoutah senior Megan Lindsay, a Murray State recruit who had six kills. “We do it for each other, we do it for our town, we do it for ourselves. Our fans were awesome. We love you.”
Mascoutah had beaten Columbia (33-5) earlier this season, but the Eagles knocked the Indians out of the playoffs a year ago in the regional championship. This time, the Indians were waiting for revenge in the sectional.
“That’s a great rivalry match,” Mascoutah coach Todd Gober said. “It’s not Ohio State-Michigan yet, but by gosh in 3A volleyball it’s starting to build.”
Gober was as fired up as he’s been throughout his tenure with the Indians.
“A lot of the seniors have been three-year starters for us, so they’ve been around,” Gober said. “They were in the sectional championship two years ago and lost, last year we got beat in the regional championship by Columbia.
“They really want it. They’ve been pretty deep (before), but this is new ground now. Now, it’s like the pressure’s off because now you’re gonna just play and have some fun.”
After winning the first set on a six-point service run by Kamrynn Voypick, the Indians watched their 13-7 lead in the second set disappear. The Eagles flew back into the match on a flurry of kills by Alyssa Yochum.
Yochum had three of them during a seven-point service run by Elizabeth Fleming that helped turn a 13-7 Columbia deficit into a 15-13 lead for the Eagles.
With Columbia leading 24-23, another Yochum kill sent the large crowd into a frenzy and the Eagles into a winner-take-all third set.
After breaking out on top 4-2 in the third set, Columbia’s pattern of serve-receive errors and other mistakes that had plagued them in the first set returned. They got as close as 11-7 before the Indians ran away and took the sectional plaque with them.
Still trailing 14-8, the Eagles fell behind on a dominant eight-point service run by Maddie Nekola that included two aces and at least three serve-receive errors.
“After you win the second game you’re going in, you’ve got the momentum,” Columbia coach Kelly Landgraf said. “We definitely had the momentum. That’s the second time this year we’ve been down against a good team by that many points and we’ve battled back.
“In a third game like this when your season’s on the line, you can’t risk battling back. We just didn’t come into that third game with the momentum.”
Morio was a force all night, as was the Indians’ serving. Nekola got all 18 of her serves in and Jung was 12-for-12 as Columbia had trouble with serves several times.
Morio collected six of her 12 kills in the first set, lighting a fire under her teammates that never cooled off. Columbia got 10 kills from junior Colene Hamilton and nine from Yochum.
The Indians scored 34 points on Columbia errors, including 13 in the third set.
“We had a lot of lift calls on us tonight. Very uncharacteristic,” Landgraf said. “Our serve-receive definitely wasn’t our normal serve-receive. That kind of throws everything off.”
Volleyball Super-Sectionals take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7
Class 3A Wood River Super-Sectional
Mascoutah (32-7) vs. Quincy Notre Dame (34-4)
Class 2A Fairfield Sectional
Althoff (18-17) vs. Shelbyville
Class 1A Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran Super-Sectional
Valmeyer (25-11) vs. Clay City