Highland High volleyball coach Tina Beyer saw glimpses of her team playing like a solid, cohesive unit during the previous weekend against top-tier competition at the Belleville East Metro Classic. So Beyer knew her team had in in them.
The Lady Bulldogs reaffirmed that they had what it took to be an elite team when they toppled area powerhouse O’Fallon in a three-set thriller on Friday night en route to going 4-0 and capturing the championship of their own tournament for the first time. The sixth annual Highland Bulldog Invitational was held Friday evening and Saturday morning at Highland Middle School.
“We played really well this weekend and we beat O’Fallon, and that program is outstanding so you know it’s always going to be a good match,” said Beyer, whose team improved to 18-7 after winning the tourney. “I think right now we are playing our best volleyball all season, and these were really quality teams. So, this was a great weekend and I am really pleased with the way we are playing.”
On Tuesday of last week, Highland dominated Triad in straight sets, 25-8, 25-22, to start a five-match winning streak that culminated with the tournament championship, prior to what should have been an easy sixth straight triumph Tuesday night at Jerseyville.
On Friday evening, the Lady Bulldogs opened the tourney with an emphatic 25-15, 25-22 victory over Alton, which was still 22-6 at press time.
Highland followed that up with the biggest win of the season. After O’Fallon easily won the first set, 25-13, the Lady Bulldogs bounced back big time to own the second set, 25-16. The third game was a barn-burner in which Highland eventually prevailed over the Panthers by a 15-13 final count. O’Fallon was a still a strong 19-3 at press time.
Then on Saturday morning, the Lady Bulldogs kept the momentum rolling as they overwhelmed both opponents, Carbondale (25-20, 25-16) and Breese Central (25-15, 25-18), to put the wraps on the tournament crown.
O’Fallon finished second and Carbondale took third.
Highland senior middle hitter Hayley McSparin, senior setter Sami Beyer and junior middle hitter Alex LaPora were all named to the Highland Bulldog Invitational All-Tournament Team after leading the Lady Bulldogs to the tournament title. It was the third year in a row that McSparin made Highland’s all-tournament team.
“We’ve always been good friends but we’re finally gelling a lot better on the court,” LaPorta said. “But I don’t think we’ve peaked yet and I think we’re still getting better. We played well last weekend (at the Metro Classic) and it was kind of like a wake-up call.”
McSparin agreed that the team has come together better on the court.
“We were all just glued together and played really well,” McSparin said. “I think as a team we have finally found our system with the 6-2 (rotation) and we were just sticking together and found our momentum and held it. It is exciting to win our tournament.”
Statistics for five wins
In the Alton match, McSparin and LaPorta showed the way to victory. McSparin compiled match highs with 10 kills, two blocks and seven service points to go along with two aces and one dig, while LaPorta logged a match-best 12 digs to go with seven kills and five service points.
Also coming through for Highland were junior Madison Wellen with five kills, seven digs and two service points; junior Sarah Beth Wiegman with a match-leading four aces to go with seven digs, six service points and one kill; senior Sami Beyer with 16 assists, five digs, six service points and two aces; senior Alyssa Anderson with four digs and two blocks; freshman Emmy Nyquist with four digs; and junior Megan Frey with three assists and two digs.
McSparin topped HHS in the O’Fallon win with 12 kills and four blocks to go with five service points, three aces and two digs, while LaPorta led the way with a match-high 19 digs to go with six kills, two blocks and one ace.
Also tabulating stats for the Lady Bulldogs were: Beyer with 16 assists, six digs, 12 service points and one ace; Wellen with three kills, six digs, five service points and three aces; Wiegman with eight digs, two kills and one assist; Anderson with three kills, one block, one dig and one assist; Frey with six assists and two digs; Nyquist with four digs; and freshman Claire Diercks with one kill and one dig.
Stats amassed for the Carbondale match were as follows: McSparin with 11 kills, two blocks, eight service points and two digs; LaPorta with six kills, three blocks and nine digs; Wellen with three kills, nine digs and seven service points; Wiegman with three kills, two blocks, eight digs, three service points and one ace; Beyer with 17 assists, nine service points and three digs; Anderson with two kills, two digs nad one assist; junior Hayley Taylor with two kills and one block; Frey with five assists, three service poitns and one dig; and Nyquist with four digs.
Stats compiled against Breese Central were as follows: LaPorta with eight kills, 13 digs and six service points; Wellen with seven kills, 13 digs and one service point; Wiegman with seven kills, four digs and five service points; McSparin with five kills, seven digs, six service points and three aces; Nyquist with 12 digs; Frey with 10 assists, five digs, six service points and one ace; Beyer with 10 assists, three digs and three service points; Diercks with two kills, one block, three assists and two digs; and Anderson with two assists and one dig.
Stats logged in the Triad victory were as follows: McSparin with seven kills, one block, four service points, one ace and one dig; LaPorta with six kills, two blocks, six digs, four service points and one ace; Wiegman with four kills, one block, eight digs and five service points; Wellen with three kills, one block, seven digs, six service points and one ace; Beyer with 12 assists, five digs and one service point; Nyquist with nine digs; Anderson with two kills, one block, three digs and four service points; and Taylor with one kill.