This whole state volleyball tournament thing may be looking all too familiar to the Mascoutah Indians.
Back at the Class 3A state tournament in Normal for the second straight year, the Indians (30-8) are facing the same team they played in the 2015 semifinals, defending state champion Marian Central Catholic (39-1). The teams meet in the 3A semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday.
Same court at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena. Same round. Will the result be different this time around after Mascoutah lost 25-15, 25-17 to the Hurricanes last November on the way to a third-place finish?
Mascoutah ended Columbia’s season at 36-1 in the sectional championship, handing the Eagles their first loss and avenging a previous defeat. Now they have a chance to do the same thing against the Hurricanes, who own a 23-match winning streak and are 78-4 in the previous 82 matches.
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“Last year they were lights out and we were just going through that first time at state experience jitters,” said Mascoutah coach Todd Gober, whose club has won 12 of its last 13 matches. “We played OK, but I think we can play better. What this team does is they really understand how to elevate — and I think that did that with the Columbia match.
“Can we consistently do that? You don’t know, but they have showed the ability to raise their games.”
This is only the fifth time in school history Mascoutah reached the final four of a state tournament. Last season’s volleyball team was the fourth.
Scouting Mascoutah: Gober knows his seven seniors well.
They were freshmen when he took over as head coach and some of them have spent two, three or four years on the varsity helping his teams compile a 118-33 record.
Last year they were lights out and we were just going through that first time at state experience jitters. We played OK, but I think we can play better. What this team does is they really understand how to elevate — and I think that did that with the Columbia match.
Mascoutah Todd Gober on facing Marian Central Catholic for the second straight year at the state tourney
“This is my first group,” Gober said. “I remember when they came in as freshmen — and they’ll tell you different — but I remember this as a very raw, not heavily club-experienced group of young ladies who had some athleticism.”
Taylor Recuero did not start on varsity until this season while senior Murray State recruit Katirah Johnson (224 kills, 67 blocks) has moved from outside hitter to middle hitter and didn’t play varsity until her junior year. Kentucky Wesleyan recruit Nilah Roy (218 kills, 44 blocks, 46 aces) moved from middle hitter to outside hitter this season while senior Kamrynn Voypick (867 assists, 243 digs, 58 aces) proved she could be a valuable setter in a 5-1 offense rather than Mascoutah needing to use two setters.
The Indians have a lot of weapons, including William Jewell recruit Lacey Albers (164 kills, 49 blocks, 42 aces), junior outside hitter and Ball State softball recruit Tieghan Morio (236 kills, 219 digs) and Sydney Waeltz (301 digs).
“They have really evolved throughout their careers and become a competitive, high volleyball-IQ type of team,” Gober said. “Going to state last year and having that first-time experience, the nerves that we had coming out of that tunnel and sitting in the locker room, being escorted through the building, that was pretty overwhelming.
“I think when you go there for the first time, it can really change the experience. I think we wanted to win last year, no question about it, but I think it was such a new experience that it did have an impact in our first match.”
Scouting Marian Central Catholic: The Hurricanes have tied the school record for wins set by the 2015 squad, have a 23-match win streak and are in the state semifinals for the fourth time in seven years.
They are led by senior all-time school kills leader Sydney Nemtuda (321 kills this season, 995 in her career) and all-time assists leader McKayla Wuensch along with 6-1 senior right side hitter Lauren Hanlon.
Libero Megan Schmallie and hitter Brenna Koch add more talent and experience.
The Hurricanes’ only loss this season was Sept. 17 to St. Charles East.
Class 3A State Volleyball Tournament
at Illinois State University’s 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.