High School Sports

Mater Dei rides hot serving and consistent play to win over Highland

Down 8-1 in rapid fashion to Highland in the second set Thursday, Mater Dei volleyball coach Chad Rakers tried to resist the temptation to call a timeout.

“I thought about it at 8-1 and I think I called it at 9-1,” said Rakers, whose team rebounded quickly and dispatched the Bulldogs 25-13, 25-16 to post another victory. “It’s only nine points into the game, how can you call timeout? I hate calling timeout.”

Rakers gets that from his father, Hall of Fame coach Fred Rakers, who believed in letting his teams figure things out on their own. Fred Rakers died in November, 2013 with 1,013 career wins and having authored six of the school’s seven state championships.

“You know exactly where I got that from,” Chad Rakers said. “Dad’s on my shoulder all the time going ‘no, no, no, wait one more, wait one more.’ More often than not our girls pull it together and then I don’t waste a timeout. Tonight we need to reshuffle.”

It’s only nine points into the game, how can you call timeout? I hate calling timeout.

Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers

KEY MOMENT

The Knights didn’t just reshuffle, they ran the table on a 19-8 Highland team that had won its previous seven matches, including one over then top-ranked O’Fallon.

After leading 9-1, Highland was outscored 24-7 the rest of the way in an avalanche of Mater Dei momentum. Rakers credited a Saturday loss to St. Louis regional powerhouse St. Joseph’s Academy for helping light a fire under his team.

Mater Dei beats Althoff, plus video of Kelly Voss

“I can’t say it enough how many times we have to learn from our mistakes,” Rakers said. “I really feel like we’ve been pushing that. I don’t know why it takes a St. Joe loss to get us to see it, but I can’t say enough about how they played tonight.

“Coming out of that hole in the second game (they) just took charge, they didn’t bat an eye. They were composed and just kept coming.”

KEY PERFORMERS

Mater Dei senior Kelly Voss continues to lead the way, pounding out six of her match-high nine kills in the first set and then putting the match-winner to the floor with an emphatic slam. Jenna Ratermann added five kills for the Knights while Highland got five kills from junior Alex LaPorta and three kills and two blocks from senior Alabama recruit Hayley McSparin..

“Mater Dei wasn’t afraid at all, I’m sure, being down 9-1,” Highland coach Tina Beyer said. “That’s the comforts and the greatness of being Mater Dei. We don’t have that. We need to have stability and we need to control tempo/

“Once we lost it after we lost the 9-1 run, that’s bad for us. We don’t recover well.”

AT YOUR SERVICE

Strong serving played a big factor in the Knights’ win. Senior Taylor Holtgrave, who also aced her singing of the national anthem, ripped her way through a 10-point service run in the first set that completely took Highland out of the game. The run included three aces and Holtgrave also served the final three points of the match.

“She was on fire,” Rakers said. “You get girls that get hot and when you get them hot you can’t get the ball back to them fast enough. It’s like a hot pitcher, give him the ball back so he can throw another one.”

Mater Dei’s Katie Haake had seven-point service run in the second set that included a pair of aces.

“I think that’s a big component of the game that sometimes gets overlooked,” Rakers said. “We’ve been working to become more aggressive servers and always put the ball wherever we want. If we can get them out off system because of it, that’s great.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

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