A resilient Belleville East volleyball team pressed the Althoff Crusaders to just their second three-set match of the season.
But the momentum the Lancers gained in battling back from match point in the second set didn’t carry through to the end.
Althoff’s bevy of big hitters kept swinging to pull out a thrilling intra-city rivalry win, 25-19, 24-26, 25-23 in the East gym.
“Playing East, playing West, it doesn’t matter if we’re 1A, 2A or 4A, it’s an intra-city rivalry so it always means something,” said Althoff coach Sara Thomas.
Althoff improved to 14-8 on the season with three big matches left against O’Fallon, Mater Dei and Incarnate Word. The last time the Crusaders were taken to three sets was in the season opener against Columbia.
“The girls are really together right now with the goal of winning regionals and having a good state run,” Thomas said. “I think they know that right now, playing these bigger schools are good preparation. They keep that in mind every time they go out.”
The Lancers fell to 6-10-1, but East coach Stefanie Gaubatz says her team showed her a lot Tuesday, despite the loss.
“It stinks to lose this one, but the girls showed a lot of character,” she said.
East battled Althoff to ties at 14, 16, 18 and 19 points in the first set, but fell to a six-point Crusader rally served by senior Katie Allard.
Althoff built a 17-12 lead in the second game before Gaubatz called timeout so that she could beg her front line to contest Althoff hitters Emily Myatt, Karinna Gall and Addie Burris.
It was an ace served by Lousie Cornerford and a kill by Gall that lifted Althoff to set and match point. But consecutive hitting errors by Althoff and a kill by Lancer freshman Brooke Haas tied it up.
Another Crusader hitting error capped the set victory for East.
“One thing we talked about after the first set was setting the block better,” Gaubatz said. “Once we were able to do that and set up our hitters better, it forced them to make some errors.”
East twice fell behind by five points in the third set, only to battle back to a 20-20 tie. It looked like the Lancers would fight their way back from match point with a timely kill from junior Kameryn Sillmon, but Burris closed out the hard-fought victory for Althoff by hammering the final point.
“Our passing was on, but East kept the pressure on us, which caused some errors and got into our girls’ heads a little bit,” Thomas said. “I feel like every one of our attackers in every position is strong, which makes it hard for other teams to stop us.
“Normally it’s us making the hitting errors that gets us into trouble. But I’m happy with the way we turned it around tonight against a good team.”
Myatt had a match-high 11 kills while Gall, a freshman, finished with 10 and Burris eight. Cornerford served four aces to go with 11 digs and 37 assists. Allard and Annika Beal helped the Crusaders with 19 and 18 digs respectively.
For East, Holly Badgley, Derika Moore and Haas had six kills each. Badgley added 11 digs, Claire Randle had 12, Brianna Pickens had 10 and Brittany Pickens had nine.