Four years ago as wide-eyed freshmen, the current Mascoutah High seniors entered coach Todd Gober’s version of volleyball boot camp.
Four years later, they leave behind a memorable legacy of back-to-back third-place finishes at the Class 3A state tournament following a 25-21, 26-28, 25-23 victory over Bloomington Central Catholic on Saturday at Illinois State University.
“It’s really an amazing feeling,” said Mascoutah senior seter Kamrynn Voypick, who had 36 assists, three kills and seven digs. “I remember when we were freshmen, practices were three hours long. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m so proud of myself and all of us that we got through it together.”
It wasn’t easy and the Indians (31-9) got the job done against a team they had lost to in each of the last two seasons at the Quincy Notre Dame Tournament. Mascoutah’s win made it back-to-back third-place finishes for metro-east teams Saturday as Althoff knocked off Chicago Latin to take third in Class 2A.
Mascoutah will hold a volleyball team celebration at 2 p.m. Monday at the high school gym.
The Indians were up 24-23 in the third set when a kill attempt by the Saints sailed inches wide, setting off a celebration.
“All I can say is thank goodness for that big, wide, thick antenna on that net for that last point,” joked Gober.
Mascoutah players hugged on the court, then ran over and began slapping high fives with everyone they could reach in the Indians’ cheering section.
Gober said the Indians are one big (and not always happy) family.
“The group of seniors came the same time I did, so all four of them have been here for four years and they’ve helped build the program from the ground up,” Gober said. “It’s a great group and the No. 1 thing that sticks out when I think about this group and this team is the chemistry that we have.
“We always joke around that we know when they’re arguing that we’re getting along well. It’s just like a big family.”
Mascoutah had a little better idea of what to expect against the Saints and exploited a strong block at the net and good use of its outside hitters. Mascoutah had 18 blocks, including six by senior Lacey Albers, while the Saints had only two.
Albers and senior Nilah Roy led the way with 12 kills each while junior Tieghan Morio had eight and senior Katirah Johnson contributed six. Albers was effective with her trademark slide kills while Roy had a team-high eight digs.
“It’s a tremendous program, the defending 2A state champs,” Gober said of the Saints, who were 2A last season. “I knew we were in for a battle with them, but I thought we matched up with them well this time — and having seen them earlier I think helped, too.
“I think our block was big. Katirah and Lacey did a great job patrolling the middle. I thought our block was big.”
The match was so tight that leads of three or four points seemed relatively huge.
The Indians used a six-point service run by Allie Warfield to pull away late in the first set for a 25-21 win.
The Saints fought back from a 15-8 deficit in the second set and came back to win 28-26. A lot of those points came off the hot hand of Kate Hoerdemann, who had a match-high 16 kills.
Central Catholic fought back from a 23-18 deficit in the third set and cut it to 24-23 before the Indians finally nailed the door shut on the third-place win.
“It definitely shows that we deserved this third place back-to-back, coming home with the win and ending our season with a win,” Roy said. “We were just calm the entire time. Even when we made a mistake we had our sisters, also known as our team, that picked us up every point.”
While dishing out praise to his entire team, Gober saved a little extra for Voypick.
“Poor Kamrynn,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve been harder on anybody on the team, any of my players. We’ve been second-guessing her all season and I think you do that for situations like this. I thought she made great decisions tonight, spread the ball around.
“We saw some advantages we could take and she was one step ahead of me out on the court. Tremendous job, she’s improved every single game this year.”