The Althoff Catholic volleyball team remembered all too well what it was like to lose in the 2A Super-Sectional round last season.
Given a second chance Saturday, the Crusaders made sure it didn’t happen again.
The Crusaders rode solid back-line defense and an unpredictable, formidable attacking offense to a dominant 25-15, 25-16 win over Newton at the Wesclin Super-Sectional, and will advance to the 2A State Volleyball Tournament, which begins Friday on the Illinois State University campus in Normal.
Althoff (22-11) dropped a tight three-set match to Shelbyville in last year’s super-sectional, but Saturday, the Crusaders left nothing to chance, pulling away early in both games against Newton (35-4) and never looking back.
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“We really just knew the feeling last year of losing and being so devastated about it, so we really wanted to come out here and prove that we should be the ones going to state,” junior defensive specialist Annika Beal said. “We needed that for ourselves, and we earned it.”
Althoff coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich said last year’s lost fueled this year’s squad’s determination, even in the offseason.
“They did more strength training, more agility work in the offseason, and then coming into this year, they set their goals high,” Thomas-Dietrich said. “I’m very proud of my girls. Every match, all season long, they lived it. Now that we’re going (to state), they want to win it all.”
Key Moments: Newton actually led early in both games. The Eagles were ahead 9-8 in the first game and were within three points at 16-13, but the Crusaders went on a 7-0 run, with Beal serving two aces along the way. The second game went much the same, with the Eagles leading 8-7 before Beal triggered an 8-0 run with her service game.
“She’s definitely one of our top servers,” Thomas-Dietrich said. “She’s composed, and she can hit all of her zones. When she goes back there, if she’s on, it helps take our team to the next level.”
Key Performers: All of Althoff’s front-line hitters contributed to the Crusaders’ scoring. Emily Myatt led the way with seven kills, with freshman Karinna Gall adding six. Leighton Kaiser and Addie Burris added four each.
Junior setter Louise Comerford had five kills, but also ran Althoff’s offense to near perfection, distributing 24 assists.
“Louise is unreal,” Myatt said. “She makes it so easy for us up there. She’ll fake me out half the time, and I’m on her team. She’s such a good weapon for us to have. We have an offense that’s kind of hard to stop, because all of our hitters can do so much.”
What’s Next: Althoff faces the winner of the Maroa-Forsyth Super-Sectional, either Deer Creek-Mackinaw or St. Joseph-Ogden, at noon Friday in the 2A state semifinals.