In a Class 3A state volleyball semifinal Friday featuring the same opponents and same scenario from 2015, the Mascoutah Indians were hoping for a better outcome.
It didn’t happen as defending 3A state champion Marian Central Catholic again beat the Indians in two sets in the semifinals, winning 25-20, 25-16 to advance to the state title match and setting a school record with its 40th victory.
Mascoutah (30-9) lost to the Hurricanes 25-15, 25-17 in the semifinals last season, but this time forced the action a lot better by being more aggressive. In the end, Mascoutah coach Todd Gober felt Marian Central Catholic was just a little stronger, a little cleaner with a little better execution.
“Same time, same opponent, same format ... it was definitely a repeat of last year and unfortunately the same result,” Gober said. “But I tell you what, we had a different attitude coming in. Last year I thought we were nervous, this year we had experience coming in and I felt really good about our chances I thought our girls played hard.
“Sometimes you run into a team that plays just as hard as you did and maybe has a few more weapons or plays a little cleaner. I thought that’s what happened tonight.”
Mascoutah will face Bloomington Central Catholic (31-6) in the third-place match at 4 p.m. Saturday at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena. Marian Central Catholic (40-1) will play Chicago Heights Marian Catholic (31-9) for the state title at 5:30 p.m.
“Playing for third, either way it’s just a great honor,” said Mascoutah senior setter Kamrynn Voypick, whose team finished third at the 2015 state tourney. “We’re really just happy to be here. We came here with a purpose, so we’ll go into tomorrow’s game with a purpose and get that third place (trophy).”
There never was a lot of separation between the teams, but Mascoutah spent much of the afternoon chasing the Hurricanes. Any time things were close, Marian Central Catholic seemed to win a long rally and take the momentum to heart.
That’s what happened in the second set with Mascoutah leading 12-11. Hurricanes star outside hitter Sydney Nemtuda pounded down one of her eight kills and with Nemtuda serving a bit later, her team stretched its lead from 15-14 to 21-14.
“Those were big turning points,” Gober said. “When you win a long rally you really take some momentum along with the point. If you were watching that match, it felt good. All of a sudden we’re toe-to-toe with them and that’s a big team.
“We said if we could hang with them for a while, build some confidence and put some pressure on them, make them feel our presence, we felt like we might be able to outlast them.”
Lauren Hanlon led Marian Central Catholic with nine kills while Nemtuda had eight kills and 11 digs. Setter McKayla Wuensch had 20 asissts.
Mascoutah got seven kills from senior Lacey Albers and three each from Nilah Roy, Katirah Johnson and Tieghan Morio. Voypick had 18 assists while Johnson added three blocks.
Marian Central Catholic has become a volleyball machine, winning 79 of its previous 83 matches along with the 2015 state title. The Hurricanes have been to state four times in the last seven years.
“This is unbelievable,” Hurricanes coach Laura Watling said. “It’s believable because I knew that these girls could do it from day one. But that it’s here and we’re having this moment together again is unlike any other.
“I have dreamed of that number. Forty wins ... you’re only allowed 42 (matches) in a season, that’s the most you can possibly play so to get 40 wins is awesome. Just mind-blowing — and I’m excited that we were able to get here.”
Gober could not fault his team’s effort. He had hopes to use aggressive serving to take the Hurricanes out of their game, but the opposing defense was up to the challenge.
“We played a solid match,” he said. “That’s a very strong team that we played, a strong tradition, defending state champion. I give that team a lot of credit. We came here thinking we had a real shot. We’ve had a really good postseason run, we’ve got a great chemistry as a team and I think we’ll be ready for tomorrow.
“This team has been able to shift focus very quickly and that’s what we’re going to do.”