On a night when the Sterling Golden Warriors needed to play near flawless volleyball to win the Class 3A state volleyball title, they did on Saturday at Redbird Arena.
Sophomore twin sisters Breelyn and Brooklyn Borum combined with older sister Josi Borum for 30 kills and the Golden Warriors defense was air tight in a 25-21, 25-22 win over Althoff in the Class 3A title match.
Making their state tournament debut, the Golden Warriors answered every challenge issued by the Crusaders and when Josi Borum rapped home a kill on match point, Sterling (41-4) had the state championship.
“It feels awesome. Its great to experience this with this group of girls which has stayed together from top to bottom, through thick and thin, through tears and love and not getting along very well at times. But when we stepped on the court we were family who came together to win a state title,’’ Sterling coach Dale Dykeman said. “To be able to pull up your bootstraps and work on a daily basis with your teammates towards a goal and then have that goal become a reality is pretty special.’’
Making the 12th state tournament appearance in school history and trying to repeat as state champion, Althoff (36-5) played well. Trailing by as many as eight points in the first game, the Crusaders closed to 23-21 when junior all-state middle blocker slammed down one of her 15 kills. But kills by Brooklyn and Josi Borum gave the Golden Warriors the first game.
The second game was tied 10 times and had five lead changes. A kill by the Golden Warriors’ Gretchen Gould provided Sterling its largest lead (20-16), but Crusaders junior Katie Wemhoener had back-to-back kills to bring her team to within 21-19..
But as it did all night, Sterling answered every Crusaders challenge.
“Hats off to Sterling. They played an amazing match,’’ Althoff coach Tony Miner said. “They came out and put pressure on us from the beginning and it took us a while to adjust. But we did a good job of battling back from seven points down and gave ourselves a chance in that first game.
“But they are a great defensive team and they got their hands on a lot of balls tonight. But we kept swinging and going for our shots. They just made the plays tonight.’’
The second place trophy is the third in as many years for the Crusaders, who in addition to winning the Class 3A state title a year ago placed third in the Class 2A state tournament in 2016.
The team will be honored with a welcome home celebration on Monday at Althoff beginning at 2 p.m. The Crusaders will ride a fire truck down main street and then return to the high school. A reception will follow.
Gall led Althoff with her 15 kills while Grace Strieker and senior Lauren Borik combined for 10 kills. But the difference was the Warriors defense. Several times, Warriors defenders returned what would normally have been winners for the Crusaders back into play.
“We had nothing to lose,’’ Josi Borum said. “We started out aggressive with our offense and we got touches on a lot of their shots. I think we surprised them a little bit. I don’t think they expected some of their attempts to come back at them.’’
Both defenses played well. Golden Warriors was one of three players in double figures with 15 digs to lead her team, while Wemhoener led Althoff with 12 and Mary Wessel and Claire Franke chipped in with nine each for Althoff.
“I think we played very well tonight,’’ Gall said. “Sterling just played lights out tonight. We tried our best. They just were better tonight.’’