O’Fallon boys volleyball coach Katelyn Hagarty said that in her opinion there are many similarities between the current Panthers squad and teams of the past but with one major difference.
“In the past, we’ve maybe looked to one main person a little more than we have this year. This team has a lot of options we can go to. We don’t have to count on just one main player,” Hagarty said. “It makes us more difficult to defend and makes it fun to coach.”
Fun wasn’t a word Althoff coach Joe Murray would use to describe the action on Wednesday as O’Fallon took leads early in both games and rolled to a 25-12, 25-12 win over the Crusaders in the title match of the O’Fallon Regional.
With junior middle hitter Gabe Norsigian and senior middle hitter Mike Hovick combining for 12 kills and junior Luke Meidel adding five more, O’Fallon was never threatened at it rolled to its fourth straight regional championship.
It was the Panthers’ second straight overwhelming win after beating East St. Louis 25-10, 25-5 on Tuesday and six days after suffering a regular season ending loss to Belleville East.
“We didn’t play well last week when we lost to Belleville East. I don’t know if it was Senior Night, the pressure of final exams or what it was,” Hagarty said. “But I also think it may have been a bit of a wake-up call for us. We’ve played very well the last two nights and I’m hoping it will continue.”
The wins lifts O’Fallon (26-8-3) into a sectional semifinal on Friday at Edwardsville High School beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Panthers will take on Belleville West which defeated Edwardsville 25-20, 25-21 in the title game of the Metro East Lutheran Regional on Wednesday.
Belleville West (22-14-1) has lost all three of its meetings this season with O’Fallon.
Althoff (9-8), which upset Belleville East on Tuesday, got solid play from senior Carson Von Alst. But with Norsigian, Meidel and Hovick in an offensive attack mode from the outset, the Crusaders were never in the match.
“They (O’Fallon) are a very good team and they’re big up front. We thought we could offset that but we just didn’t play very well tonight,” Murray said. “I don’t know if we used up everything we had last night (Tuesday) against East or what. it was. O’Fallon was clearly the better team.
“We had a good year and we only graduate two seniors. The next couple of years look promising.”
Setting the tone early
O’Fallon used a five-point service run by Mike Hovick to take an early lead in game one. With O’Fallon leading 3-2, kills by Lucas Hackmann and Norsigian along with a tip by Jason Dorries and a pair of Althoff hitting errors put the Panthers up 8-2.
Althoff would close to within 8-5 on a pair of points by Jacob Gall, but a six-point run which included a pair of kills by Meidel and a kill each from Matt Warren and Hackmann increased the O’Fallon advantage to 14-5.
Althoff would get no closer than six points the rest of the game and when the Cruasders made a hitting error on a Hackmann serve, the Panthers had the first game of the match.
A team effort
Six different Panthers had winning kills in the first game as setters Hackmann and Jon Worthing did a a superb job of distributing the ball.
“Out hitters don’t have so much success if the setters dont’t make good psses and put them in position to score,” Hagarty said. “Our setters don’t get a lot of credit sometimes but they played well again tonight.
Game two was more of the same for O’Fallon which used a second long service run from Mike Hovick to break out to a lead for which Althoff had no answer.