The Althoff Crusaders captured the championship of the Metro Classic volleyball tournament held at Belleville East Saturday.
Althoff knocked off Missouri power Cor Jesu in the championship match, 25-23, 25-23.
The Crusaders had to work their way through bracket play, defeating Nerinx Hall and Mater Dei on the way to the championship round. Friday, they defeated Mount Pulaski and Parkway West in pool play.
Belleville West, which finished fifth in the Metro-Classic, had handed Althoff its first defeat of the season in three sets Thursday. The loss came at the right time, however, said assistant coach Kathy Wuller, who guided the team Saturday in place of head coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich.
"We needed that loss to get the monkey off our backs. We were struggling and getting by with some wins over some teams," Wuller said. "It never feels good to lose, but West played an amazing match against us, and we felt like we had to lose at some point. It was kind of a relief, but the girls came back from it playing like themselves again.
"I can't emphasize enough how much we learned from that."
Still, Althoff entered the tournament Friday as the top-seeded team. At 25-1 headed into a scheduled match at home against Belleville East Tuesday, the Crusaders still are a marked team.
"But with the loss out of the way, the fun has come back into their game," Wuller said.
Karinna Gall led Althoff with eight kills against Cor Jesu Saturday. Libero Louise Comerford had 20 assists and Annika Beal had 10 digs for the Crusaders.
O'Fallon (20-3) finished the tournament in third place with a 25-19, 25-22 defeat of Mater Dei. It took West (19-4) three sets to defeated Nerinx Hall for fifth place 25-23, 24-26, 25-15.