With its perfect mark in the Southwestern Conference on the line, the O’Fallon Panthers finished with a flourish against Edwardsville on Tuesday in a prep boys volleyball match.
O’Fallon senior Lucas Hackmann scored on a tip and a block to highlight an eight point scoring run to end the match as the Panthers rallied for a 26-24, 22-25, 25-19 win over Edwardsville at the Panther Dome.
Beaten by O’Fallon in three games when the two SWC rivals met last month, Edwardsville (11-8, 4-3), led the decisive third game 19-17 following a kill by junior outside hitter Curt Sellers.
But following a hitting error by the Tigers, highly-touted Panthers outside hitter Luke Meidel stepped to the service line. One of the top club players in the St. Louis area, Meidel never left as he served the final seven points. Senior Mike Hovick then slammed down match point with a kill as O’Fallon all but eliminated Edwardsville from title contention.
Never miss a local story.
“This is a big win for us. Edwardsville is always a tough opponent and we needed three games to beat them the first time we played them as well,” Panthers coach Katelyn Hagarty said. “I thought we played well and especially well in the last few points of the match.
“We haven’t played a lot of close three-game matches and it was good to pushed and even better because of how we closed it out.“
O’Fallon (13-4-1, 7-0) tied the third game on a miscue by the Tigers and when Meidel floated a service winner which Edwardsville failed to return, the Panthers had the lead for good at 20-19.
Hackmann then scored on back-to-back points to increased the O’Fallon lead to 22-19.
“The second time we’ve played them and they’ve gotten us both times. I would say O’Fallon has our number right now,” Edwardsville coach Andy Bersett said. “I thought we played well in spots. We just had too many hitting and serving errors. You’re not going to beat good teams like O’Fallon making the kinds of mistakes that we did.”
O’Fallon maintains a slim one game lead over Belleville West (6-1) in the SWC and the two teams seem headed for a showdown on May 5 at Belleville West. The loss drops Edwardsville to 4-3 in the SWC. With five games left, Edwardsville would need a near miracle to get back in the SWC race.
The Panthers first rally of the night
Edwardsville, getting a combined 18 kills on the night from Tommy Hartnagel and Nick Allen as well as a huge hitting night from junior middle hitter Jack Grimm, built a 23-20 lead in game one on a kill. by Grimm. But a kill by Hackmann, an ace by Hovick and a kill by Meidel evened the score at 23.
Seconds later with Hackmann serving, O’Fallon won game one 26-24.
“We had some chances in the first game,” Bersett said. “At the beginning of the season, I told these players that we had a chance to have a special season. It’s up toe these players on this team and how hard they are willing to work as to if we can that special season come true.
“We can control what we can control. We can’t control what other teams do. We just have to continue to work hard and see what happens the last few weeks There is still time. We just have to play better and not as many mistakes.”
Edwardsville staged a rally of its own midway in game two. Trailing 16-14, the Tigers got a block from Nick Allen and a kill by Allen to tie the game at 16. Junior Curt Sellers then served four straight points as Edwardsville surged to a 20-16 lead.
O’Fallon closed to within 24-22 but when Grimm had a block at the net, Edwardsville had game game two with a 25-22 win and the top two boys volleyball programs in the SWC were headed for one more game.