Long before stepping on the court to begin the 2018 volleyball season, Karinna Gall’s place as one of the top players Althoff’s rich history was secure.
A member of the Crusaders squad which placed third in the Class 2A State Tournament in 2016, Gall developed into one of the top offensive weapons in the nation last season.
One of 35 finalists for PrepVolleyball.com National High School Sophomore of the Year honor, Gall hammered 313 kills for an Althoff team which finished 41-1 and won the Class 3A state championship.
Even that wasn’t enogh for Gall.
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Expected to be one of the leaders on the junior-dominated Crusaders team looking to replace all-state setter Louise Comerford this season, Gall not only led her team kills with 465, but was first in service aces (48), blocks (83) and placed third behind Katie Wemhoener and Mary Wessel in digs (349).
Voted as the Belleville News-Democrat Class 3A-4A Player of the Year, Gall was a major reason Althoff was the runnerup in the Class 3A state. tournament. In 2018, Gall was the Crusaders total package.
“In club volleyball the past year I really worked on my defense.,’’ GalI said. “I was able to become a six rotation player because I worked on playing in the back row. Before club season this year I had only played on the front row.
“We would do drills last year and I could kind of did serve receive pretty well. The coaches thought they could work with me a little bit and it would help with my defense. I was able to become a better all-around player this year.’’
The Crusaders were the ones who benefited.
Teaming with junior setter Mary Wessel along with Wemhoener, senior Lauren Borik and Grace Strieker for a lethal hitting attack, Althoff finished 37-5 and looked destined for back-to-back state titles before being derailed by Sterling 25-22, 25-21 in the title match.
“I guess you could say that was disappointing because we really wanted to win it again. But Sterling was a really good team and they had really strong athletes,” she said. “We could have done better, but to place second in the state and bring back a trophy for the third straight year, we did really good. Our team was just really strong and we were really close this year.
“We had a couple of tough matches during the season, but with most of us being juniors, we just had to step it up. We did that and having Lauren (Borik) come back and play the way she did after missing all of last year with an injury, that was big for us as well.’’
The play of Gall and her teammates was also big for first-year head coach Tony Miner. An assistant under Sara Thomas-Dietrich a year ago, Miner had the luxury of going to a number of options every night.
But in close matches with the outcome in doubt, the ball was usually headed in the direction of Gall.
“Karinna had a great season and that’s an understatement. In every aspect of the game she just did an amazing job,’’ Miner said. “For her to be a six-rotation player for the first time in her high school career and have the type of season that she had? She had total package this season.
“She has great character. She is one of the top players in the state but when she comes to practice she doesn’t act like she’s any better than anybody else on the team. When Katie, Grace or Lauren would have a big kill, dig or block, she’s happier for them then she would be is she did it. For a high school player to have that kind of maturity is really special.’’
Althoff will be a good bet to reach the state volleyball tournament for a fourth straight season in 2019. For Gall’s part, there will be no distractions that come with college recruitment — the 6-1 standout has already committed to play at Indiana State University in 2020.
“I’m totally excited about going to Indiana State,’’ Gall said. “I just really liked it from the time I got there and it just felt like it was the place I was meant to be. It’s a great school and a place where I think I can play early in my (college) career.
“As for next year we’ve got a lot of players coming back and hopefully we can get back to the state tournament..’’
Large School (Class 3A-4A)
All-Area Volleyball Team
Player of the Year
Karinna Gall, Althoff, Jr.
Coach of the Year
Tony Miner, Althoff
Abby Braswell, O’Fallon, sr.
Alexa Harris, Edwardsville, soph.
Lauren Lepere, O’Fallon, sr.
Jessie Timmermann, Mater Dei, soph
Katie Wemhoener, Althoff, jr
Mary Wessel, Althoff, jr.
Carlee Wise, Mater Dei, sr.
Claire Diercks, Highland, sr.
Kenzee Simmers, O’Fallon, sr.
Storm Suhre, Edwardsville, soph.
Abby Johnson, Central, jr.
Jessle Seidel, Waterloo, jr.
Lexie Smith, Freeburg, jr.
Molly Mistler, Columbia, sr.
Payton Adkins, Mascoutah; Lauren Borik, Althoff; Kati Casey, Waterloo; Hannah Cope, Waterloo; Kelli Determan, Belleville East; Kyla Ellis, O’Fallon; Claudia Etling, FReeburg; Ally Fehrmann, Central; Claire Franke, Althoff; Caroline Gagen, Freeburg; Kylie Gagen, Belleville West; Alyssa Grimm, Collinsville; Elise Halbrooks, Collinsville; Chasity Hill, Freeburg; Jayla Holcombe, East St. Louis; Emily Huy, Columbia; Madolyn Isringhausen, Edwardsville; Gabby Jamruk, Mater Dei; Jennessa Kimmle, Highland; Bella LaPorta, Highland; Darci Metzger, Collinsville; Maddie Missey, Belleville West; Rachel Mitts, Belleville East; Carter Mohesky, Mater Dei; Tori Mohesky, Mater Dei; Paige Montgomery, Waterloo; Mackenzie Murphy, Columbia; Emmy Nyquist, Highland; Taylor Pavich, Central; Baylee Richter, Mater Dei; Morgan Revermann, Mater Dei; Hannah Scrum, Collinsville; Grace Strieker, Althoff; Emma Szczeblewski, Central; Sydney Thomas, Triad; Corrine Timmermann, Edwardsville ; Morgan Tulacro, Edwardsville; Katherine Toftemark, O’Fallon; Megan Vidmar, Highland; Chelsea Vogel, Belleville West;