Mascoutah’s state title hopes squashed

Living up to their nickname the Woodstock Marian Hurricanes blew into Redbird Arena late Friday afternoon and left it one win away from a Class 3A state volleyball championship.

Outside hitters Sydney Nemtuda and Rachel Giustino combined for 22 kills and the quick-jumping Hurricanes never let Mascoutah get on track as it scored a convincing 25-15, 25-17 win in the semifinals of the Class 3A State Volleyball Tournament.

Making its first ever trip to the state tournament, Mascoutah (33-8) led just once when Nemtuda missed a kill attempt on a serve by Indians senior Maddie Nekola on the first point of the match. But with its 5-fooft-11 bookend hitters leading the way, the Hurricanes scored eight of the next 11 points to take control for the rest of the afternoon.

McKayla Wuensch then began game two by serving three straight points — two coming on kills by Giustino and Lauren Hanion — as the Hurricanes took lead they would never relinquish as they moved into the state title match at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday against Joliet Catholic. The pre-tournament favorite Angels defeated LaSalle-Peru 25-21, 25-27, 25-13 in the second semifinal.

With its quest for a state championship over, Mascoutah will take on LaSalle Peru in the third place match at 4 p.m on Saturday.

Third in the Class 3A State Tournament in 2010 and second in 2011, the Hurricanes also got four kills from Hanion and a match high 25 assists from Wuensch as it was hitting on all cylinders against an Indians team, which simply could never get on track.

“We had seen film on them from early in the year and we knew they were good. But obviously, they’ve improved a great deal from that point,” Indians coach Todd Gober said. “They have the three big players up front in Guistino, Nemttda and Hannion and their setter (Wuensch) did a great job of putting the ball where it needed to be for their attack.

“But in all honesty, I didn’t think we played bad. We just got beat by a better volleyball team today.”

Finishing the match with a .286 attack percentage compared to just an .046 percentage for the Indians, the Hurricanes were led by Nemtuda’s 14 kills, just two less than the entire Indians squad.

“We wanted to come out and play well early and we did that. We set the tone and we were able to mix our attack up pretty well,” Nemtuda said. “A lot of the credit goes to McKayla (Wuensch). We (the hitters) get a lot of the attention, but without her setting the ball the way she did today and all year, we aren’t the team that is playing for the state championshhip. We’re excited. This is like a dream come true.”

The Indians dream of joining the 1979 Indians football team as the only Mascoutah teams to win a state title, didn’t last long on Friday.

After a kill by senior Megan Lindsay cut the Hurricanes lead to 10-7 midway in game one, Woodstock Marian went on an 8-2 run to break it open. Two kills by Guistino keyed the run and when Hanion hit a kill which landed just inside the baseline, the Hurricanes lead was 18-9.

Minutes later Nemtuda’s seventh kill gave her team a 25-15 win in game one.

For Hurricanes coach Laura Watling, seeing her two outside hitters take over a match was something she’s seen before.

“I thought we passed the ball very well and with the number of hitters we can go to, its hard for teams to focus on stopping one player. We’ve got the two outsides who are the Division I recruits, but we have a lot of girls who can hit and block well. They proved that today,” Watling said.

“I feel like we’re living a dream. To be in this position — with this group of girls — is just incredible. But we’ve still got one more to go.”

While things were going well for Woodstock Marian, reality was beginning to sink for the Indians.

“I didn’t look at the scoreboard much,” Linsday said. “We’ve been down before and found a way to come back. I thought we could again.”

Trailing 8-2 in game two, the Indians responded with their best stretch of the match. With Amanda Jung serving a pair of Hurricanes hitting errors followed by an ace by Jung, got Mascoutah to within 9-6. Later a kill by Lacey Albers followed minutes later by an ace by Paige Weiss, got Mascoutah to within 14-12.

With a sea of purple-clad followers numbering nearly 500 strong hoping for the Indians could continue their rally, Guistino had a kill followed by an ace by Brenna Koch which gave the Hurricanes a 17-12 lead.

Mascoutah would get no closer the rest of the afternoon.

“I thought we had a good game plan and I don’t think we were any more nervous then what you would normally see early in the match,” Gober said. “Our passing wasn’t as sharp as it usually is and like I said before that’s a very good team we played today.”

Amanda Jung led Mascoutah with five kills while Tieghan Morio added four.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean