Points came in bunches through two sets of long rallies when Althoff and Mater Dei met on the volleyball court in Breese Tuesday.
But Mater Dei won the Holy War rivalry match between the two Catholic high schools on a decisive third set that went back and forth through six lead changes.
It wasn’t until senior Jenna Ratermann served four points to close out the Knights’ 19-25, 25-19, 25-18 win that either team could string together more than three tallies in the final set.
“I think a few years back the rivalry stepped back from what it had been. It’s back in full force now,” said Mater Dei head coach Chad Rakers. “It’s good for both programs to have it back.”
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Althoff (14-9) was in control through the entire first set, closing out with a 15-5 run thanks to seven-point service rally by Crusader senior Katie Allard and dominance at the net by seniors Emily Myatt and Katie Burris and freshman Katie Wemhoener.
The trio combined for 24 kills on the night, but were held to just four in the third set.
The match marked the second time in a row and just the third time this season that the Crusaders have been taken to three games.
“It comes down to mentality,” said Althoff head coach Sara Dietrich. “We have to be in beat mode for every serve and every point and we just weren’t. It’s like when we play Belleville West or East — it doesn’t matter the size of the schools, it’s a big deal. Tonight is two Catholic schools that have a big rivalry and at some point we just weren’t in it.”
The match turned for Mater Dei (13-11-2) late in the second set.
Down 19-18 after a four-point Crusader rally, Rakers called a timeout and sent junior Mikaela Kues to the service line. Abby Hellmann had a kill and a block and senior Ratermann got a left-handed kill as a part of a seven-point rally that won the set and tied the match at a game apiece.
Kues finished with a match-high 16 service points.
“We got on top because of the intensity we gained from that rally,” said Hellmann, one of four Mater Dei senior night honorees. “Once we had the momentum and started communicating better at the net, we suddenly started getting our hits and our blocks to go down.”
Althoff took a 4-3 lead in the third set, but couldn’t score more than two points at a time the rest of the way.
Megan Deimeke led the Mater Dei attack with nine kills while Hellmann and Ratermann added seven each. Junior middle hitter Rylie Johnson had five blocks and four kills, including several timely points in the third set.
“She’s our No. 2 hitter in the middle, so for her to come through like she did was really big for us,” Rakers said.
Kues had 17 assists and senior Erica Hitpas had 19 digs.
Burris led Althoff with 12 kills and 13 digs. Myatt had six kills to go with 18 digs. She also served three aces.
Karinna Gall had six kills for the Crusaders and Leighten Kaiser while Louise Comerford added four each.