The Highland High School volleyball team dispatched of Olney East Richland County in straight sets, 25-17, 25-16 in the semifinals to advance to the championship of the Class 3A Mater Dei Regional, where Mascoutah put an end to the Bulldogs’ season with a 25-20, 25-19 win.
Five of the Indians contributed kills to help Mascoutah defeat Highland for the second time in a week. The first time gave the Indians their fourth straight Mississippi Valley Conference crown and this time to repeat as regional champions.
“Even though we graduated four seniors, we had a lot of girls on the floor tonight who were a big part of what we did last year during that run,” said Mascoutah head coach Todd Gober, who has led the program to three regional titles in the past four years. “That’s paying off now because they showed a lot of composure.”
“It was a hard road to get here, but it’s going to be great to get back home.”
The Indians’ regional championship reward is advancement to a sectional tournament to be played on their own home floor. Mascoutah will face Murphysboro, winner of the Benton Regional, at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Mascoutah finished the match with 24 team kills, compared to 13 by Highland. Four-year starting setter Kamrynn Voypick finished with a match-high 23 assists.
“Kamrynn did a great job spreading the ball out antenna to antenna, so we got more hitters involved tonight, which made it tougher on their block,” Gober said.
Highland’s season ended with a school-record 30 wins against just five losses and a tie, but the Bulldogs dropped four of their last six matches and did not win a conference or regional title.
“That record is going to stand and they can’t take that away from the girls. That’s what I told them when we huddled at the end,” said Highland coach Tina Beyer, who retired as the most successful coach in program history. “We battled through 30 wins, battled through five losses, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Highland never led the match, and only twice tied games at 2-2 each time. But, the Bulldogs made late surges in each set to put their outcomes in doubt.
In the first set, Mascoutah rallied ahead by six points, punctuated by one of junior Tieghan Morio’s four kills. Then Highland senior Sarah Beth Wiegman served a pair of aces and coaxed a receiving error to narrow the gap for the Bulldogs at 20-18.
As if on cue, the Indians’ hitters took over. Morio picked up points on a hit and a block and senior Lacey Albers put two kills on the floor to close out the set.
The second set followed the same template. A service error helped Highland close to within three of the Indians when senior Nilah Roy pounded home three kills and another point on a fourth-hit bump that landed just inside the Highland service line.
“We tell our hitters, when you’re fast in transition, it opens up seams for everybody,” Gober said. “Nilah took advantage of that on the outside. When the ouside gets kills like that, it must mean the inside is doing it’s job too.”
Albers and Katirah Johnson got kills to close out the set and match.
Albers led the way for Mascoutah with seven kills, Johnson had six, Roy had five and Morio had four.
Highland was led by senior Alex LaPorta and sophomore Claire Diercks with four kills apiece. Diercks also logged the Bulldogs’ lone block.
Also for Highland, seniors Wiegman and Madison Wellen each had two kills. Wellen led the Bulldogs with seven digs while Wiegman had her team’s only two aces to go with tying senior setter Sarah Frank with a team-best five service points.
HHS beats Olney in regional semifinal
Two nights earlier, the Bulldogs swept by Olney East Richland County in straight sets, 25-17, 25-16 in the semifinals to advance to the championship bout.
With the win, Highland raised its new school-record win total to 30.
Mascoutah had a much rougher semifinal match as the Indians had to survive a hard-fought three-setter, 25-17, 15-25, 25-23 over regional-host Mater Dei (14-14-2). In fact, Mater Dei held what seemed like a dominant 22-14 lead in the rubber game before the Indians, who finished third in the state in Class 3A last year, charged back to claim 11 of the final 12 points to take the triumph.
Highland’s match was never in doubt as Bulldogs dominated the Tigers from beginning to end.
Wiegman helped power Highland’s offense with a match-best eight kills to go along with five digs.
“We played a pretty good and solid game tonight,” Wellen, who recorded a match-high eight digs to go along with six kills and four service points. “We needed that win tonight, not only because the season was on the line, but because we needed confidence in ourselves again. The past few games have been tough.”
Also turning in key performances for the Bulldogs were: LaPorta with six kills, four digs and four service points; Claire Diercks with five kills; senior setter Sarah Frank with 11 assists, six service points and one ace; senior setter Megan Frey with 11 assists, three digs, three service points and one ace; sophomore libero Emmy Nyquist with seven digs, four service points and one ace; and senior Amanda Korsmeyer with two kills.
In Mascoutah’s win over Mater Dei, Morio and Johnson banged out 12 kills apiece while Roy and Albers each recorded seven kills and Voypick handed out a match-topping 37 assists.