Another strong girls volleyball season has area teams dreaming of bringing home another state championship to the metro-east.
Playoffs begin Monday in all four classes leading up to the state tournaments Nov. 13-14 at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal.
Here is an in-depth analysis of the metro-east girls volleyball playoffs:
Class 4A Belleville West Regional
▪ Top seeds: (2) Belleville West (32-3), (3) Mater Dei (26-7)
▪ Favorites: Belleville West and Mater Dei
▪ Capable of upset: Belleville East (18-17)
▪ Analysis: East-West matches are always emotional and West won the only meeting in two sets. Mater Dei, making its first 4A playoff appearance, will receive a forfeit in the opening round because of the East St. Louis teacher strike. Mater Dei and Belleville West staged what was likely the match of the metro-east this season on Sept. 10, with West finally putting a stake through the Knights’ hearts in a wild 23-25, 25-23, 30-28 victory. Mater Dei senior Kelly Voss is talented and versatile while West has a powerful weapon in senior Kayla Juenger.
▪ Tidbits: Belleville West assistant coach Charles Rodman won back-to-back state titles as Maroons’ head coach in 1990 and 1991. He stepped down as head coach with 815 career victories.
Class 4A Granite City Regional
▪ Top seeds: (1) O’Fallon (29-5), (4) Edwardsville (24-10)
▪ Favorites: O’Fallon and Edwardsville
▪ Capable of upset: Quincy
▪ Analysis: Edwardsville has a lot of momentum, having won on the road at O’Fallon and is playing some of its best volleyball this season. The Tigers cannot afford to overlook a tough Quincy squad in the semifinals thinking ahead to another potential Edwardsville-O’Fallon matchup. Edwardsville 14-3 in last 17 matches, including a 25-20, 25-22 win over O’Fallon. O’Fallon went through a bit of a late-season lull but still has won 23 of its last 27 matches and has plenty of firepower.
▪ Tidbits: Edwardsville sophomore Rachel Pranger led the Tigers’ basketball team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman and was one of the area’s top hoops players.
Class 3A Mascoutah Regional
▪ Top seeds: (1) Mascoutah (27-7), (4) Waterloo (16-11)
▪ Favorite: Mascoutah
▪ Capable of upset: Waterloo or Highland (22-11)
▪ Analysis: Mascoutah ran the table in the Mississippi Valley Conference and should be the favorite here against a mostly MVC field. Indians are led by Murray State recruit Megan Lindsay and Southern Indiana recruit Amanda Jung. Waterloo is much improved from the early season, but will have its hands full against Highland and Alabama recruit Hayley McSparin. Mascoutah at home with some talented seniors will be tough to beat.
▪ Tidbit: Highland senior Hayley McSparin is the first metro-east volleyball recruit at Alabama since former Althoff and Edwardsville standout Kayla Fitterer.
Class 3A Centralia Regional
▪ Top seeds: (2) Columbia (30-4), (3) Freeburg (19-10)
▪ Favorite: Columbia
▪ Capable of upset: Freeburg
▪ Analysis: The expected all-Cahokia Conference regional final between Columbia and Freeburg should prove interesting. Columbia, which has won 13 straight and 20 of its last 22, has beaten the Midgets four times this season. That doesn’t mean Freeburg couldn’t put everything together and knock the Eagles out of the playoffs. The top weapon in this regional is the powerful right arm of Columbia junior Colene Hamilton (252 kills) and the Eagles have plenty of additional talent. Freeburg has dropped three of its last five matches, but did that against a strong late-season schedule.
▪ Tidbit: Freeburg’s four state volleyball championships are second among area teams to the seven won by Mater Dei.
Class 2A Althoff Regional
▪ Top seeds: (2) Althoff (11-15), (3) Nashville (21-11)
▪ Favorites: Althoff and Nashville
▪ Capable of upset: Wesclin (13-14), Carlyle (13-12)
▪ Analysis: Althoff has dropped from 3A to 2A for the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean things will necessarily be easier for the Crusaders. Nashville is a proven playoff performer and has won 25 or more matches eight times since 2004, including a 33-4 mark last season. An emotional three-set win over Incarnate Word was only the third win in nine matches for Althoff, but the Crusaders also play a much tougher schedule than most 2A teams. Emily Myatt (142 kills) and Central Arkansas recruit Alanna Bramwell (91 kills) are the top offensive weapons for Althoff. Nashville will need to survive what could be a tough semifinal match against Wesclin to reach the final, but has experienced, proven talent and a proud history of playoff success.
▪ Tidbit: Althoff owns nine state tourney appearances, but hasn’t gone to state since a fourth-place finish in 2007.
Class 2A Red Bud Regional
▪ Top seeds: (1) Gibault (23-11), (4) Pinckneyville
▪ Favorite: Gibault
▪ Capable of upset: Pinckneyville, Red Bud (14-16-2), Trico
▪ Analysis: Gibault has been a solid club all season with Lauren Goldschmidt (283 kills), Megan Dooley (217 kills) and impressive setter Ashley Grohmann (10 assists per match, 31 aces). The Hawks, trying for their third straight regional crown, have won eight of their last 10 and the losses were to power teams Mater Dei and Columbia. Red Bud is playing at home, but has dropped six of its last seven matches.
▪ Tidbit: Gibault senior Lauren Goldschmidt is the reigning News-Democrat Small-School Player of the Year and recently surpassed 1,000 career kills. Gibault setter Ashley Grohmann recently broke the 2,500 mark in career assists.
Class 1A Marissa Regional
▪ Top seeds: (1) New Athens (26-7), (4) Valmeyer (21-10)
▪ Favorites: New Athens and Valmeyer
▪ Capable of upset: Valmeyer
▪ Analysis: New Athens is 10-2 in its previous 12 matches, but one of the losses was to Valmeyer. The teams split two matches in Cahokia Conference play this season, each finishing 8-1 in the conference. New Athens, which is shooting for its third straight regional title, relies on seniors Abby Marlow (272 kills, 72 blocks) and Alina Lance (217 kills, 62 blocks) and setter Savannah Idecker. Valmeyer has won nine of its last 11 matches and is led by April Thomason (193 kills) and the aptly named Jordan Killy (181 kills).
▪ Tidbit: New Athens (fourth in 2013) and Valmeyer (fourth in 2012) each have made state tournament trips in the last three years.
Class 1A Metro-East Lutheran Regional
▪ Top seeds: (1) Lebanon (15-12), (4) Metro-East Lutheran (10-22)
▪ Favorite: Lebanon
▪ Capable of upset: Metro-East Lutheran
▪ Analysis: Lebanon and Metro-East Lutheran both played capable schedules, including Metro-East Lutheran finishing up at the Quincy Notre Dame Tournament against mostly larger competition. Courtney Fenelon, Ellen Schulte and Danielle Timmermann lead a balanced offensive attack for Metro-East.
▪ Tidbit: Lebanon owns four regional title since 2008 and also won a sectional in 2013. Metro-East Lutheran has won 10 regionals in school history, including three since 2010.