The Althoff Crusaders came up six points short a year ago in their quest for a berth in the Class 2A state volleyball tournament. This year, it appears senior Emily Myatt and her Althoff teammates are taking no chances.
An impressive 25-16, 25-12 win over Edwards County on Thursday in the title match of the Pinckneyville Sectional indicates the 2016 Crusaders may be on a mission.
One of only three seniors on the Althoff roster, Myatt led a balanced attack with seven kills as Althoff rolled to its second straight Class 2A sectional championship.
Beaten by Althoff in the sectional semifinals a year ago, the Lions (30-9) played the Crusaders tough in the early going. A service ace by Madison Hout tied game one at 12 and Edwards County trailed just 19-16 following a kill by senior Sarah Mewes.
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But a kill by Crusaders freshman Katie Wemhoener put another freshman — Mia Orlet to the service line. The 5-foot-6 Orlet then served the next five points to give Althoff the first game of the match.
Junior Annika Beal then began the second game with five straight points as Althoff (21-12) took charge early and advanced into the Wesclin Super-Sectional on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
“Coming so close to getting to state last year and losing in a close third game to Shelbyville in the super, we remember what that felt like. It’s been on our minds and motivated us to get back to the super-sectional another chance,” Myatt said. “We know whoever we play will be a tough opponent, but we’ll play as tough as we can.”
While Althoff advanced to the Wesclin Super-Sectional it won’t be playing Shelbyville for a second straight year. Instead, the Crusaders will take on Newton which defeated Shelbyville 25-23, 25-22 to win the Vandalia Sectional on Thursday.
“If we play Shelbyville, fine. If we play Newton this year that’s fine too. Has what happened in the super-sectional last year, motivated these girls and this team? Oh, yes,”Althoff coach Sara Dietrich said. “These girls have done a very good job of staying focused and in the present. Tonight I thought we came out and played very well from the outset. But this is the postseason and this is the time when you want to and should be playing your best.”
Althoff, with its size, depth and athletes across the board, just had too many weapons for the Lions on Thursday. Fresh off an emotional marathon win over Red Bud in the semifinals on Tuesday, Edwards County managed to stay close for a while.
But with the 6-foot Comerford setting up her teammates with pinpoint passes and the Crusaders deep hitting attack which included Karinna Gall, Erica Buckley, Leighten Kaiser, Katelynn Peterson, Ellie Martz and Myatt, among others blocking, tipping and dominating at the net, Althoff was never threatened after the first game.
“We really worked on our blocking and being aggressive at the net at practice yesterday,” Dietrich said. “Our freshmen really played well. It’s a talented class. We’ve got two that play a lot and a third who also plays., Plus we’ve got two more reserves on the bench who are freshmen.
“We’ve got a lot of players who can put the ball away. That’s good for us because it keeps the other teams guessing who we’re going to go to.”
A fitting end
Kaiser, who had a good hitting night in the Crusaders semifinal win, helped her team put away the Lions in style. The 5-foot-10 Kaiser had three straight service winners to put Althoff up 23-12 and following an error by Edwards County, Gall clinched the sectional championship with a kill.