High School Sports

Althoff, Mascoutah each need a win to reach state tournament

Althoff High junior setter Louise Comerford (4, on the right) is the school’s sixth Division I setter in recent times.
Althoff High junior setter Louise Comerford (4, on the right) is the school’s sixth Division I setter in recent times.

Watching Althoff junior Louise Comerford’s ultra-smooth and accurate sets and exceptional ability to read plays reminds coach Sara Dietrich of the long line of talented Crusaders’ setters that came before her.

It has been a remarkable run of seven Division I setters for Althoff. The list includes Jessica Dalke, Emily Scannell, Katie Peil, Carly Thomas, Ashley Gagen and Hillary Keltner, with Keltner recently finishing up a record-breaking career at the Air Force Academy. Gagen is playing now for St. Louis University.

Comerford,a 5-foot-11 junior, committed to Division I Miami (Ohio) earlier this year to join the list.

“Althoff traditionally has had very strong setters and Louise is very much keeping that tradition alive,” said Dietrich, whose 21-11 squad takes on Newton (35-3) in a 1 p.m. match Saturday at the Class 2A Wesclin Super-Sectional. “Miami came in hot quickly and really pursued her. They came to a practice and really showed interest, then the family went up there on a visit and she fell in love with the campus and committed.”

Being a setter means Comerford has to mentally process lots of things at once before physically putting them into action. She has to gauge the block, know where her hitters are and where the opposing defense is headed.

“I like to look at the block on the other side and maybe who is the weaker blocker or shorter, so I can give my hitters some leeway,” she said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I think I handle it pretty well. Being 5-11, that really comes in handy, especially when I’m in front row and when I’m jump-setting.”

Dietrich said the biggest difference with Comerford is her ability to keep teams guessing. She has the ability to drop kills or soft and well-placed tips on opponents and possesses several different types of sets, including a killer jump-set. in her growing arsenal of skills.

“Being a lefty is an advantage for her and she’s such a good attacker that it keeps the other team on their toes,” Dietrich said of Comerford, first seen by Miami at the University of Illinois team camp. “She can set anybody at any time and does such a nice job of mixing it up that it gets her attackers one-on-one. That’s just being smart and her volleyball IQ has gotten a lot better over the last year.

“She’s taken her game to that next level.”

Comerford has 479 assists (6.8 per game) and also ranks fourth on the team with 112 kills and second with 35 blocks. Her 46 aces lead the team and Comerford thrives on being in control with the ball on her fingertips.

“Most definitely, I like being a part of every play knowing I get to touch the ball every single time it comes over the net,” Comerford said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but I enjoy it because I own it. It’s nice to know I’m important on the court.”

Althoff is a bit closer to home this time, but remembers the pain of its 2015 Fairfield Super-Sectional loss to Shelbyville.

“I’m feeling really confident about this year,” Comerford said. “Last year we were pretty good, but it was the first time and we didn’t really know what to expect. Now we know what to expect and we have to work hard to make it happen.”

The Newton Eagles claimed their first sectional title since 2008 on Thursday with a 25-23, 25-22 victory over Shelbyville. Sophomore Mallory Bergbower is a strong outside hitter and server who had eight kills and four aces in the sectional title match.

She had 15 kills in the sectional semifinal win over Pana.

Mascoutah pushing for another state trip

Mascoutah coach Todd Gober said having experience players from the 2015 state tourney run has to help now that the Indians are one win away from making a repeat trip.

After stunning previously unbeaten Columbia in the sectional final, Mascoutah (29-8) will take on Taylorville (27-12) in the Class 3A Effingham Super-Sectional at 6 p.m. Saturday. The winner advancing to the state tournament semifinals.

“I think it’s going to be a huge help,” Gober said. “The girls seem to be really focused on the game at hand and getting the job done. Now we’ve got motivation because they’ve been to the state tournament. They’ve been in that arena and stayed in the hotel.

“They want that back and I think that’s very motivating.”

This is Taylorville’s first super-sectional appearance. It’s an extremely young team with eight sophomores, two juniors and two seniors but the Tornadoes have several powerful hitters led by junior Liz Curtin.

Taylorville lost to Murphysboro, which lost to Mascoutah in the sectional semifinals, while both teams own victories over Jacksonville.

Mascoutah has four players with 160 or more kills led by Ball State softball recruit Tieghan Morio (234 kills), Murray State recruit Katirah Johnson (218 kills, 65 blocks), Kentucky Wesleyan recruit Nilah Roy (210 kills, 42 blocks, 46 aces) and William Jewell recruit Lacey Albers (161 kills, 48 blocks, 41 aces).

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders