Belleville West senior Nick Stevenson didn’t flinch after being blocked on consecutive plays by Carson Von Alst of Althoff on Monday at the Belleville city volleyball title on the line.
And neither did the Maroons.
Perhaps the premier outside hitter in southern Illinois, Stevenson had a match-high 17 kills and added seven digs while Tim Neff and Henry Holm combined for nine more kills as West clinched a second straight Belleville city volleyball championship with a 25-21, 25-21 win before a large crowd at Althoff High School.
With five different Maroons scoring during an eight-point service run by Holm, West (9-6) built a 21-12 lead late in game one before Althoff (5-3) found its range.
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With the Crusaders’ Royce Payne serving, Von Alst had a kill and a tip and following a change of possessions, the Crusaders senior followed with another kill to cut the Maroons lead to 23-16.
Althoff’s Connor Fleming then stepped to the service line and served four straight points during a stretch in which Von Alst blocked Stevenson twice. Jordan Eiland added a block as Althoff closed to within 23-20, but it was the defensive plays by Von Alst which had the Crusaders home crowd buzzing.
“That doesn’t happen very happen where Nick (Stevenson) gets blocked on two consecutive plays like that. But (Carson) Von Alst is a good player and I enjoy watching him,” West coach Austin Betz said. “But (Nick) came right back and we had other players step up.”
“Nick’s a player who wants the ball in big situations. He showed that tonight.”
Unfazed by the blocks, Stevenson came back with a kill to end the streak and seconds later when junior Trevor Pentland had a block at the net, West had game one.
Althoff, although getting a big night from Von Alst, was plagued by inconsistent play, especially when returning the Maroons serves.
“I thought we did some good things. Carson (Von Alst) had a good night for us. For his size, he can really jump well,” Althoff coach Joe Murray said. “We just made too many mistakes. We took a day off and it showed tonight. Our service returning just wasn’t very good. “
“I thought we did a fairly good job on blocking Nick (Stevenson). But he’s difficult to stop. Plus (Henry) Holm and Tim (Neff) also played well for West tonight.”
West rallies in game two
Showing no signs of a letdown, Althoff came right back in game two to take an early lead. A pair of West hitting errors and a service winner by Tim Donaho gave Althoff a 9-6 lead.
West rallied to tie the score on consecutive kills by Stevenson and when Neff and junior setter Sharron Clay, the Maroons had the lead for good at 15-14.
With Pentland serving, Holm had one of his four kills and following a missed block by Althoff, Stevenson followed with his fourth kill in seven points as the Maroons advantage grew to 18-14.
Althoff would get no closer than three points the rest of the night. Led by Neff, who added five kills and Clay, who handed out 27 assists, the Maroons put the match away.
“It feels good,” Betz said. “We had never won the city title until last year and so to win two in a row is pretty special.”
“Tim Neff had a good night with five kills and while Henry (Holm) had four kills, a couple of those were at crucial parts of the match. This was a night of scoring runs. We would have a scoring run and they would come right back. Althoff’s got a good team.”