Making deep high school volleyball playoffs runs hasn’t been overly difficult for metro-east small-school teams in recent years.
New Athens finished fourth at the 2013 Class 1A state tournament and Gibault was fourth in 1A in 2011. Althoff reached the Class 2A super-sectional last season while New Athens reached the 2014 1A super-sectional, with Lebanon advancing to the 1A super-sectional in 2013.
Could this be the year a metro-east team breaks all the way through to a state title?
Regional play begins Monday throughout the region, with regional championships on Thursday that set the stage for further advancement.
Here is a quick glance at the metro-east Class 1A and 2A playoffs:
Class 2A Carlyle Regional
Pick to win: (1) Althoff (14-11)
Teams to watch: (4) Wesclin (16-14-2), (6) Carlyle (10-12-1)
Analysis: This is where Althoff’s large-school heavy schedule dotted with Class 3A and 4A schools is supposed to pay off. The Crusaders have one of the area’s top setters in Miami (Ohio) recruit Louise Comerford, firepower at the net led by senior Emily Myatt and defense led by Katie Allard. Althoff will likely face Nashville in the semifinals, followed by the winner of the Wesclin-Carlyle all-Cahokia Conference semifinal. Expect a thriller there as Wesclin beat Carlyle twice this season with both matches reaching three sets before being decided.
Class 2A Chester Regional
Pick to win: (2) Gibault (17-17) or (3) Chester
Team to watch: (5) Red Bud (12-18-3)
Analysis: While Gibault has beaten a solid Red Bud squad twice, the Hawks lost to Chester and also are daling with several key injuries, losing its starting senior libero to injury with a hand injury to setter Mary Wessel. The Hawks’ tough schedule could pay off here, but whoever they face in the finals will bring tough competition. Red Bud’s Morgan Cowell has had one of the strongest seasons of any metro-east small-school players with 301 kills and could be a force here, too.
Class 1A Valmeyer Regional
Pick to win: (3) Valmeyer (18-14)
Team to watch: (2) Thompsonville
Analysis: Valmeyer has played a tougher schedule than higher seeded Thompsonville and the Pirates are playing at home. Steeleville did take Valmeyer to three sets once this season, but also lost to the Pirates three times. Valmeyer’s past playoff experience and being at home, coupled with talented players like Jordyn Killy, Sam Seidel, Savannah Williams and Cierra Goldschmidt should be enough to get the Pirates through to the sectional.
Class 1A Zeigler-Royalton Regional
Pick to win: (1) Norris City-Omaha-Enfield
Team to watch: (4) New Athens (19-12)
Analysis: New Athens could be getting hot at just the right time, winning 10 of its final 12 regular-season matches with losses to Marissa and Woodlawn included in that mix. Coach Kyla Patton thinks this New Athens team has gained momentum and chemistry which it will need to knock off top-seeded Norris City.
Class 1A Metro-East Lutheran Regional
Pick to win: (4) Metro-East Lutheran (9-22-1)
Teams to watch: Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran
Analysis: Madison and Lovejoy are the only two public schools here and a pair of Lutheran schools, second-seeded Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran and third-seeded Metro-East Lutheran from Edwardsville, appear to be on a collision course toward the regional final. Metro-East Lutheran won the only meeting between the schools in three sets early this season at the Springfield Lutheran Tournament.
Class 1A Woodlawn Regional
Pick to win: (1) Woodlawn
Team to watch: (3) Okawville (15-10)
Analysis: Woodlawn is the clear favorite here, but the Okawville Rockets have enough talent and firepower to perhaps throw a scare into Woodlawn if the Rockets can get past Lebanon in the semifinals.