As the season for the ladies of H2 14-1 IL West marches on, we venture into new challenges. On 5 February, this brought us to our first 15’s tournament of the season at Principia College. Coach Tori and I instructed the girls to play their game from the first whistle to the last. These young athletes followed the directions precisely as our first match was against a St. Clair 15 Navy team with multiple girls at, near or over six feet tall. The girls stuck to the game plan and served aggressively and ensured every overpass or free ball was followed with a swift transition for a kill. The girls went out and swept the St. Clair team not nearing a set loss. Onto a scrappy PAO 15 Black team, the hours of serve training and transitional play came to light leading to taking two of three sets with both set wins coming at the hands of single digit blowouts. Unfortunately, in the first play of the 3rd set, Libero Emily Johnston fell victim to an on-court accident that took her out of the game…and the rest of the tournament. Due to the current lineup, backup Libero Lannie Kaercher was already in the game. This led to middle hitter Riley Kleber having to play all-around. Riley looked at home covering middle back and stepped her defensive game up even tallying three digs in that 3rd set. The girls entered the medal round only losing 1 set and taking first in pool play. First opponent for the 14-1 IL West team, a date with Tri County 15A. The ladies had an opportunity to avenge a loss that the 15 IL West team suffered at the hands of Tri County 15A a week prior. When Emily went down, the team employed our “next athlete up” mentality and Lannie stepped in to fill the Libero shoes. The nearly hour and a half wait seemed to take a toll as we came out flat going down fast and unable to overcome a strong serve losing the 1st set 19-4. The girls came into the huddle and looked very relaxed because they knew what they did wrong. After letting them speak and giving little instruction, they came out on fire and didn’t let up taking the 2nd set 19-6. They went into the 3rd very confident. Just as in the 2nd set outside Hailey Cortinas started off with a lethal three service point jump serve. Then back to back service rotation blunders opened the door for the TC team. At 8-7, IL West faced the server that gave them so much trouble in the 1st set. The 3rd was a repeat and they could not overcome her run going down 13-7, eventually losing the 3rd set 15-8. The girls walked off the court without a lick of dejection. Their heads held high that they not only competed in their first 15U tournament, but only lost three sets all day.
On that day, these young athletes truly stepped their game up and showed their coaches, families and most of all, themselves that they have what it takes to compete at this level. They knew going in, capturing their third consecutive medal would be a monumental task, but they never dropped heads. While facing some very good…and much larger blockers, our hitters dug deep in their volleyball tool box to rack up some eye-opening numbers to the 15’s parents in attendance. Leading the way was outside hitter Tori Mohesky with 16 kills, four digs and a staggering 10 service aces. Middle hitter Riley Kleber came in close behind with 13 kills and a respectable four service aces. Outside hitter Hailey Cortinas and middle hitter Kenadi Barriger were not far behind with eight and four kills, respectively with Hailey dropping in a team second high eight service aces. Even with missing the entire final match, Libero Emily Johnston led the team with nine digs adding three service aces to the mix. Backup Libero Lannie Kaercher added five digs along with two service aces. Setter Baylee Revermann guided the offense with 39 assists, three service aces and even throwing in two kills (she will not let us hear the end of that either). This weekend tournament was a test for the girls that they embraced. For that, Tori and I are very proud of your play. We will take that momentum and return to the 14U division for our next tournament at the Center St. Louis on 12 February. Big things on the horizon ladies! I can feel it! Great job!