Before every match throughout the playoffs and much of this season, the Mascoutah Indians volleyball team likes to dance.
Not just any dance, either.
It’s a well-choreographed pregame rhythm performed to a catchy tune called “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem).”
“I’m pretty sure that people know we are a dancing team,” said senior middle hitter Katirah Johnson, a Murray State recruit and one of seven seniors who will help the Indians (30-8) make their second straight journey to the Class 3A state tournament in Normal this weekend. “We love to dance and we love to sing.”
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While there is no disputing Johnson’s abilities at the net in volleyball, apparently she and fellow senior Lacey Albers have a friendly dispute when it comes to the team’s best singer and dancer.
“Everyone says that I’m the best dancer,” Johnson said. “I’m not bragging, but everyone says that I am. I feel like it is between me and Lacey. We do sing-offs. She is the loudest, but she screams when she sings.”
Albers, another senior middle hitter who will play college volleyball for William Jewell, offers this rebuttal.
“I’m by far the best singer. I’ll give her a little bit on the dancing,” Albers said. “Every year we pick up our own traditions. This year that dance went viral and we had talked about making a video as a team. It just kind of became a pregame tradition and we couldn’t stop once we started.”
Sounds like their return trip to the state volleyball tournament. The Indians, who finished third at state last season, began knocking off teams in the regional and couldn’t stop once they started. Thad included a straight-set victory over previously unbeaten Columbia in the sectional championship.
The experience last year was a good feeling. Having it come back and follow us this year was better knowing that we were an underdog team and we could come back to state two years in a row.
Mascoutah senior Nilah Roy
This is an extremely tight group of girls that loves to have fun. The seniors include Johnson, Albers, Nilah Roy, Kamrynn Voypick, Taylor Recuero, Allie Warfield and Gabby Moll, while juniors Tieghan Morio and Sydney Waeltz are play huge roles.
That special chemistry helps them take care of business not only on the court, but on trips to games where they do things like stage mannequin videos, another trend where videos are filmed with everyone in freeze-frame mode.
Even coach Todd Gober got into the act on the super-sectional trip to Effingham.
Talented and fun-loving group
“They’re having a lot of fun and the parents are terrific,” Gober said. “I think as much fun as the kids are having, the parents are having more. Last year it started with that postseason run and that’s something that only the kids don’t forget, but the families don’t forget it.
“It’s something that small towns cherish.”
Mascoutah isn’t like most small towns. While it has its share of lifelong residents, it’s population base is always changed based on its proximity to Scott Air Force Base.
Johnson was born in South Carolina and spent part of her childhood in Alabama before her military family moved to Mascoutah. Now she will play her final match in the purple and white this weekend and like her teammates has shot to go out as a state champion.
“It’s been a great journey,” Johnson said. “I love this school, I love our coaching staff and I also love the girls so much. We pretty much do everything together while we’re in season and I feel like it’s pretty much going to be like that even when we’re not.”
Senior outside hitter and Kentucky Wesleyan recruit Nilah Roy is one of seven seniors who benefited from the lessons learned under the Indians’ senior crew a year ago.
Last year we were excited and we were glad that we were there and everything. This year I feel like we’re going there and we are still excited, but we’re there for a purpose.
Mascoutah senior Katirah Johnson
“The experience last year was a good feeling,” Roy said. “Having it come back and follow us this year was better knowing that we were an underdog team and we could come back to state two years in a row.
“Everyone did question us. We proved them wrong and we can come back with the seven seniors that we have.”
No first-time jitters
The experience of being at state last year should help the Indians when they take on Woodstock Marian (39-1) in the 3A semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena.
“Last year we were excited and we were glad that we were there and everything,” Johnson said. “This year I feel like we’re going there and we are still excited, but we’re there for a purpose. We do want to go — and we do want to win.”
“Any experience is good experience, but we no longer have those nerves that we had before,” Albers said. “Maybe that was a factor, I’m not sure. But now our mindset isn’t getting to state, now its ‘OK, let’s do something there.’’’
Gober believes his squad has an even hungrier mindset now.
“This year I think the girls know what to expect,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting time, but we’re not going to have that first-time shock of going. I know we’re playing a tough team. We felt like we have been kind of under the radar a little bit, which is fine.
“Anything to get a little extra edge is a good thing when you’re coaching.”
Class 3A State Volleyball Tournament
at Illinois State U. Redbird Arena, Normal
Friday, Nov. 11
Match 1: Mascoutah (30-8) vs. Woodstock Marian (39-1), 4 p.m.
Match 2: Chicago Heights Marian (30-9) vs. Bloomington Central Catholic (31-5), 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Loser Match 1 vs. Loser Match 2, 4 p.m.
Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2, 5:30 p.m.
Mascoutah Team Leaders
Kills: Tieghan Morio 236, Katirah Johnson 224, Nilah Roy 218
Blocks: Katirah Johnson 67, Lacey Albers 49, Nilah Roy 44
Assists: Kamrynn Voypick 867
Aces: Kamrynn Voypick 58, Nilah Roy 46, Lacey Albers 42
Digs: Sydney Waeltz 301, Nilah Roy 290, Kamrynn Voypick 243, Tieghan Morio 219