With the the high school volleyball playoffs set to begin on Monday, the top four teams in the metro-east went head-to-head this week with some intriguing results.
These were high intensity matches featuring playoff atmospheres and plenty of talent on the floor. Both lasted through three emotional sets and were played in front of large and loud crowds.
The Southwestern Conference championship was at stake when Edwardsville traveled to Belleville West on Tuesday, while two teams from off tournament championships — Columbia and O’Fallon — went head to head on Monday.
It took a while for Class 3A Columbia to gain traction against Class 4A O’Fallon on Monday while facing the Panthers on their senior night, but the Eagles were up to the challenge. They added a dominant two-set win over Collinsville a day later to close out the regular season 33-0, then overtook Edwardsville for the top spot in the new BND Large-School Volleyball Rankings.
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Columbia got a season-high 22 kills from Division I Central Arkansas sand volleyball recruit Colene Hamilton and 11 more kills from Jordan Hausmann in a three-set win.
“I think losing that first set helped us bring back the fire,” Hamilton said. “We play good teams, but it’s good losing so you can have that momentum coming back. You want to fight for it.”
Both teams put up a struggle, but the Eagles rebounded to win the final two sets and the match.
“It’s tough,” said O’Fallon coach Melissa Massey, whose team is 29-6. “I know it’s hard for my seniors, they’re obviously very disappointed. But they’re great kids and I have full confidence that they’ll bounce back from this.”
Edwardsville (25-4) completed a 7-0 run through the Southwestern Conference with a three-set win over Belleville West on Tuesday, winning the final two sets after dropping the first.
Juniors Rachel Pranger and Kate Martin combined for 36 kills while Rachel Verdun dealt out 42 assists in the win. The Tigers had to work extra hard to escape a pesky and aggressive Maroons defense playing at home on senior night.
“The first game they just took care of the ball better than we did, they were playing clean,” Edwardsville coach Jami Parker said of the Maroons, who were also succcesful on numerous line shots. “They played some tremendous defense. They had a lot of balls up, especially in that third game. We struggled to get a ball (put) away.”
Edwardsville freshman Maria Smith showed why she may be making an impact in the conference for three more years, collecting four of her seven kills in the decisive third set.
“Maria had some huge kills for us,” Parker said of her 5-foot-9 outside hitter. “That was a freshman stepping into a big match and putting away some balls. I don’t know that she had more than one error tonight. That’s a tough game for a freshman to step into right away and play that well, so she did a great job.”
New Athens ready for a run?
After finishing fourth at the 2013 Class A state tourney and reaching the super-sectional in 2014, the New Athens Yellow Jackets failed to bring home any playoff hardware last season.
They could be ready for another deep playoff run after the Jackets moved to 19-11 by going 10-1 in their last 11 matches and winning the Sparta Tournament.
Coach Kyla Patton said developing chemistry and teamwork after the loss of so many seniors to graduation last spring too more than a bit of time.
“I feel like this team, more than any other team, is like a puzzle,” Patton said. “They honestly are equal in their own way, but great. When they click together, good things happen. Winning 10 of the last 11 games has caught them on fire and encouraged them, made them believers.”
Patton said junior Taylor Junge and freshman setter-hitter Danika White, the sister of former New Athens star Denae White, are among the big reasons for the late-season surge. Denae White is a sophomore at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey.
“It’s kind of nice to see how far the older girls that came before have pushed these girls,” Patton said. “Other than Taylor, there wasn’t a lot of varsity playing time on my court this year. Most of my hitters and our two setters have got the same numbers, so everybody has been playing well together.
“The chemistry has been a really important ingredient for this team and they’ve made progress.”
New Athens has a balanced attack with five players boasting 94 or more kills. They include junior Leah Kiefer (111), junior Brooke Jansen (103), senior Jordan Drake (100), White (98) and Junge (94).
Jansen leads the team with 46 service aces and averages 3.94 assists, while White averages 3.28 assists and has a team-high 80 blocks. Junior Joelli Wahlig is the defensive whiz with a team-high 414 digs and Junge has 316.
Ex-Tiger is honored
Former Edwardsville Tigers standout Katie Shashack was honored recently as one of two Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Athletes of the Month.
Shashack, a junior libero, and Katie Johnson had 14 digs each Saturday in the Cougars’ Ohio Valley Conference victory over Eastern Kentucky.
Shashack’s 351 digs (4.62 per game) lead the Cougars (13-6) and she ranks third on the squad with 98 assists.
BND Girls Volleyball Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses.
Large school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
Also receiving votes: Highland (29-3-1), Mater Dei (13-13-2), Freeburg (21-9), Waterloo (20-8), Central (16-18)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Carlyle (12-10-1), Roxana (18-9), Nashville (13-20), Metro-East Lutheran (9-21-1)
Here are the weekly Belleville News-Democrat Volleyball Game Balls given to area players for some recent top performances:
- Mackenzie Koester earned Most Valuable Player honors after helping the O’Fallon Panthers go 5-0 to win the O’Fallon Autumn Classic. O’Fallon’s Elise Smith also made the all-tournament team and the Panthers got big performances from Cassie Reno, Ali Fournie and Imani Williamson. In two sets in the title game against Marist, ranked fifth in the state, O’Fallon got 30 combined kills, 30 digs and four blocks.
- Edwardsville junior middle hitter Kate Martin is hitting at a 33.9-percent clip over the last two weeks with 50 kills and 13 errors on 109 attempts. In her last four matches, Martin had 13 or more kills including 15 against Belleville West. Tigers junior Rachel Pranger had 21 kills against Belleville West and has 11 kills or more in her previous four matches.
- Columbia senior Colene Hamilton went over 1,000 kills for her career Saturday while helping the Eagles win the Freeburg Monster Mash Tournament. Hamilton had a season-high 22 kills in the Eagles’ win over O’Fallon on Monday and is among the St. Louis area kills leaders with 311.
- Columbia senior Elizabeth Fleming had 43 assists Monday in the win over O’Fallon and is averaging 9.22 assists per game. Eagles senior Jordan Hausmann had 11 kills and six blocks against O’Fallon and has 206 kills and 86 blocks this season.
- In Mater Dei’s Senior Night match against Althoff, senior Megan Deimeke had nine kills and two blocks and senior Abby Hellman had seven kills and five digs. Senior Jenna Ratermann had seven kills, seven service points, 10 digs, and 15 assists while senior Erica Hitpas had 19 digs and 22 serves received. Ratermann leads the Knights with 112 kills and 30 service aces and ranks second with 227 assists (4.2 per game). Kues is second with 108 kills and third with 26 blocks.
- Belleville East’s Janae Mosby made the all-tournament team at the O’Fallon Autumn Classic, finishing the tourney with five aces, 19 kills, 10 blocks and 70 assists. The Lancers’ Claire Randle came up big in the victory over Central on Tuesday with 19 digs and two assists.
- Highland senior Alex LaPorta and sophomore Claire Diercks each made the all-tournament team at the O’Fallon Autumn Classic as the Bulldogs went 3-1-1 to take third place. Diercks had 23 kills at the tourney while LaPorta had 33 kills, 35 digs, 27 service points, eight blocks and two aces.
- Wesclin’s Olivia Krebs made the all-tournament team at O’Fallon, leading the Warriors with 30 kills and also recording four service aces. Kaitlyn Hagarty had 74 digs over the weekend, including a career-high 36 digs in the Silver Bracket third-place match against Red Bud.
- Alton senior middle hitter and six-rotation player Savannah Fisher made the all-tournament team at O’Fallon after leading the Redbirds with 28 kills in five matches and also recording the second-highest digs total.
- Lydia Flaherty dished out 34 assists, 16 service points and three kills Tuesday in Metro-East Lutheran’s 21-25, 25-20, 25-10 win over Mt. Olive.
- Valmeyer’s Cierra Goldschmidt continues to anchor the Pirates’ defense. The junior picked up nine of 10 digs and 12 of 16 serve receives in her last match, leading all servers with eight points and an ace. Goldschmidt leads the Pirates with 358 digs and 37 service aces this season.
- Freeburg junior Maddie Hurd and senior Abby Quirin both made the all-tournament team at the Freeburg Monster Mash tourney. Quirin had 78 assists and Hurd added 24 kills.