Edwardsville's Allison Blume
Just two days before the seeding meeting for the girls high school volleyball playoffs, the Edwardsville Tigers threw a wrench into the metro-east volleyball hierarchy.
The Tigers didn’t just beat top-ranked O’Fallon, they beat them in two sets on the road Tuesday as they delivered a 25-20, 25-22 Southwestern Conference victory.
In a strong year for metro-east volleyball, Class 4A is loaded. The top teams have few defeats and most of the losses outside of those to teams outside the area have been to each other.
Things are so tight the seeds may not even matter.
“It’s a tough playoff,” said Edwardsville coach Jami Parker, whose team was ranked fourth in the latest BND large-school poll while O’Fallon was first. “You’ve got (Mater Dei), (Belleville) West, O’Fallon, us, Quincy ... it’s going to be a tough go to see what we do here. They seed two days from now so we’ll see what we get.”
The win avenged O’Fallon’s three-set victory over Edwardsville at the Tiger Classic earlier this season, gave the Panthers their first league defeat and marked the first time O’Fallon had lost to a team from Illinois all season.
O’Fallon (19-2 overall, 4-1 in league play) hadn’t lost a single set at home, either.
“It feels great since we lost to them back at the Tiger Classic,” Edwardsville senior Allison Blume said. “It was definitely one of our goals to beat them this season, so it feels really good to come in here and beat them in two.”
Edwardsville (14-5, 4-0) trailed in both sets, but each time seemed to gain traction late in the set to put things away.
I’m so proud of the girls ... to climb back out of that against a really good team like O’Fallon is a lot of heart and a lot of guts.
Edwardsville coach Jami Parker
Was this the type of season-defining win the fourth-ranked Tigers were looking for?
“It could be,” Parker said. “I’m so proud of the girls ... to climb back out of that against a really good team like O’Fallon is a lot of heart and a lot of guts.”
It took a balanced effort by the Tigers, who got five kills each from Annie Ellis and freshman Corinne Timmermann and four each from Rachel Pranger, Kate Martin and Sydney Wright.
Sophomore setter Rachel Verdun handed out 20 assists.
“Honestly that’s the beauty of this team,” Parker said. “It truly is a team effort We have a lot of really good players on offense and defense and setting. The girls work together as a unit, there’s no big egos.”
One adjustment made by Parker after the first set was trying to find a way to control O’Fallon sophomore Elise Smith. Smith was virtually unstoppable at times, racking up nine of her match-high 15 kills in the first set.
Parker moved senior Sydney Wright across from Smith in an effort to slow things down and it worked in the latter stages of the second set with O’Fallon struggling to get kills from other sources.
It’s not like we just lost everything, I have not seen my team play like that all season so I don’t know what that was.
O’Fallon coach Melissa Massey
It took a while to get things rolling, but after falling behind 10-2 and 11-3 the Tigers found a way.
“We started in a slightly different rotation, we backed it up a little bit trying to change some of our matchups with the blocker an the hitters,” Parker said. “In the long run the matchups worked. However, it definitely kind of threw the girls for a loop and they had a little bit of trouble settling too. But they worked out of it.”
FRUSTRATING NIGHT FOR PANTHERS
O’Fallon coach Melissa Massey seemed frustrated by what she perceived as an out-of-character performance by the Panthers.
Does she feel O’Fallon should still be a No. 1 seed in the playoffs?
“If we play like we have all season, yeah,” she said. “If we play like that (tonight), no.”
The Panthers seemed well on their way toward forcing a decisive third set before committing 12 errors in the second on the way to their first conference defeat.
“I have no idea. I really don’t,” Massey said. “I literally am at a loss for words right now. It’s not like we just lost everything, I have not seen my team play like that all season so I don’t know what that was.
“They served us well. We struggled (with) serve-receive for sure, and that’s not typical for my senior passers to pass like that.”
Smith was tough to overlook even in defeat.
“Phenomenal. She’s a sophomore and she just keeps getting better and better,” Massey said. “She gets in these tough situation and she is just huge for us.”