After starting four freshmen a year ago, the Edwardsville Tigers volleyball team is no longer experiencing growing pains.
They dissected the Waterloo Bulldogs in their season opener Tuesday, flashing balance and talent in a 25-14, 25-16 victory.
“At this time last year we had a lot of kids that were incredibly nervous to be on a volleyball floor,” said Edwardsville coach Jami Parker, whose team was coming off a 20-17 season. :”Other than the first couple points tonight, you really didn’t see the nerves or the jitters. They hit the floor, they were ready to go ... a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm from the girls.
“They had a good time, they were relaxed.”
Sophomore Rachel Pranger was dominant at times and led the way with eight kills while senior Sydney Wright added six. Annie Ellis and freshman Corinne Timmermann put down five kills each.
Parker and her team considered 2014 a down year since the Tigers failed to win the Southwestern Conference or a regional title.
“Yeah, definitely,” Parker said. “These girls aren’t just shooting to improve their season, they’re shooting to make a statement this year. They’ve got some big expectations for themselves and they’ve been working very hard in the gym.”
Sophomore setter Rachel Verdun spread the wealth with her 20 assists, taking advantage of a number of hitters. Senior defensive specialist Rachel Anderson contributed 12 digs and sophomore Megan Woll had seven.
Inconsistency hurts Bulldogs
Waterloo (0-3) led early in each set, but inconsistency and an inability to stack much of a block at the net led to problems all night.
Many of Edwardsville’s points came on Waterloo mistakes.
“Our defense fought hard and our offense, they weren’t there putting the ball where it neeedd to be,” said Waterloo coach Angie Crawford, whose team took both Freeburg and O’Fallon to three sets in fairly tight matches. “Plus our block wasn’t there. Our block started coming on towards teh end of the match.
“When we played O’Fallon, these girls showed up and they played with their ability. Tonight i dont think they showed up with that hype intensity and in their zone.”
Waterloo got four kills from junior Sam Kruse and three blocks from junior Kathryn Finnerty.
“This team is a very good team,” Crawford said of her squad, which was 18-12 last season. “They just need to walk out there no matter who they’re playing and play with the confidence they can. Keep fighting to the end no matter what.”