After a tough loss on the road Tuesday at Freeburg, Belleville West volleyball coach Lauren DeGirolamo wanted to see how her team would react Thursday against another perennial power in the Mater Dei Knights.
DeGirolamo liked what she saw.
Junior outside hitter Kaylee Hanger had a team-high nine kills and middle blocker Nikki Gaskill added 11 blocks as the Maroons held off a late Mater Dei rally in game three for a 25-23, 24-26, 25-22 win over the Knights on Fred Rakers Court.
“We lost a tough match against Freeburg and I was very interested to see how we would come out and play tonight against Mater Dei. I was pleased. I thought we played what was probably our best match of the season up to this point,” DeGirolamo said. “We had leads in each set and while Mater Dei made runs at us, we never let them have a long scoring run of points. We were able to play poised and regain our composure when they made runs at us.
“It seemed like each time they would made a run at us, we would come back with one of our own. This is a big win for us. Winning here doesn’t happen that often.”
West, which also got good play from Katherine Koch, Kacie Kinnikin and a lift from Kailey Bold in game three, won the first game behind the blocking of Gaskill. A kill by Koch on game point gave the Maroons an early advantage over the Knights, who according to coach Chad Rakers, didn’t seem to be as focused as usual.
“I was surprised we didn’t come out with more intensity because we had played well recently and Belleville West is always a good team,” Rakers said. We just lacked focus and I honestly don’t know why.”
Mater Dei rallied to win game two as senior Jenna Ratermann had six of her match-high 13 kills and when senior Megan Deimeke smashed home a winning kill, the Knights had evened the match at a set apiece with a 26-24 win.
Tied at 7 in the third and decisive set, West (5-3) took control of the match with a five-point run. A kill by Gaskill put senior setter Alexandra Dahm on the service line. Dahm served four straight winning points which came on a kill by Koch, a block by Gaskill, a kill by Madison Grohne and a hitting error by the Knights.
The Knights would never get even again. But with the Maroons leading 24-17, Mater Dei rallied with five straight points to throw a scare into the Maroons. The drama finally ended on a Knights hitting error on match point.
“It’s never too late if you keep believing and fighting until the end. We did that in all three games,” Rakers said. “The girls kept battling until the very end tonight even when we were down 24-17 in the third game. That was good to see.”
Hanger and Gaskill were just two of the standouts for West in the rare win at Mater Dei.
“Nikki (Gaskill) did a great job of blocking, especially early in the match,” DeGirolamo said. “And Kaylee had a big night. She got a lot of touches, but I was pleased at her composure. She didn’t try and go for too much. She had good patience tonight.”