“Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties because it’s cold outside…it’s Groundhog Day!” Well maybe it isn’t February 2nd and Bill Murray isn’t in Punxsutawney, PA, but Sunday sure felt like it. After finishing 2nd in Gold at the Thunder Classic last week, the ladies of H2 STL 15 Black came into the TESL Center for the March Madness and earned 2nd in Gold for the second straight week. This makes four 2nd’s in Gold out of five tournaments this season. From the beginning, it was evident that the winner of the tournament was going to come from our bracket. As stacked bracket with two Rockwood teams and a scrappy St. Louis Crossfire Elite team caught us on our heels giving us a split after taking three of four sets from both Rockwood teams in our pool. Having deciding set victories during the pool play gave us the point differential of a 1st place finish in pool play for the 5th consecutive tournament. The 2nd place team was a tough Rockwood 15 Carolina team with a Libero that just didn’t let anything touch the court. After beating 15 Carolina in a two-set sweep, we both knew we’d see each other again for the Gold. But first, we had to get through a 15 Illinois Heat team. After a 19-6 blowout first set, IL Heat found a spot and started out on top quick and we were forced to come back from a deficit early. Unfortunately, in sideout ball, we ran out of time dropping the 2nd 19-17. Dejected this team was not. They knew exactly what they did wrong and co-Captain Riley Kleber just looked at me and said, “relax coach, we got this.” The girls took over with a dominant serve performance in the 3rd by setter Sarah Gingrich delivering a seven-serve run with two aces and two out of system serves pulling away to a 15-7 3rd set victory. As expected, Rockwood 15 Carolina was in our sites for our goal of winning Gold. The girls started off slow going down 10-4 early. Again, after a much-needed timeout, they looked at me and their eyes said it this time, “we got this coach.” I let them work out their game plan and they didn’t falter. Not only did they fight back to tie, but a back and forth battle emerged ultimately H2 taking the 1st set 27-25. Going into the 2nd set, Jenna and I could see the girls were gassed from the many hard-fought matches and practices over the last three weeks. The girls gave 100% every whistle and battled every volley and left everything on the court, but on this day, the goal was not on our side and we fell in the next two sets to Rockwood. As the 2nd place medals were handed out, I could see they didn’t want to put the medal on for pictures. As I told them we’re always a 1st place team no matter what but be proud of the battle fought today for others would love to be in this position just once and we have been there four times. The girls grabbed their medals, and smiled for pics, knowing that we are a 1st in Gold team and that’s what matters.
This tournament saw the return of middle hitter Kenadi Barriger in a limited rotation role and she didn’t let her team down delivering a modest seven kills at a .357 hitting percentage. But K’s most important contribution was the five stuff blocks! Middle hitter Riley Kleber led the offensive wave delivering her first double double of the season with a team high 20 kills at a .406 clip and 10 digs along with six blocks and seven service aces. Outside hitter Tori Mohesky was right on Riley’s heels with her 3rd double double of the season with 19 kills and 14 digs and tossed in 7 serving aces to round out her day. Outside hitter Hailey Cortinas had her best tournament of the year coming in with her first double double of the season with 18 kills and 10 digs. Right side Myah Helmkamp is hitting her season stride and had some hammer dropping sideout kills on the outside finishing with 10 kills overall. Myah’s tag-team partner RS Cami Marteeny came in with 9 kills and 4 digs, 2 of her digs came in the critical semi-final match with IL Heat to keep Sarah’s serve run going. Second year Libero Emily Johnston was tasked heavily on Sunday with some very tough serving Rockwood teams and an overly tipping Crossfire team. Emily held her position with 41 digs bringing her season total to 134 digs, 34 serves with an outstanding 50% ace/out of system ratio. Key moment was a five-service run with three aces to close out the 27-25 1st set win of the final match. Setter Anna Richter stepped her game up bringing her third double double of the season guiding her rotations with 45 assists and covering her defensive responsibilities with 13 digs. Setter Sarah Gingrich came to play as well ringing up her first double double on the year with 36 assists and 10 service aces at a 91% serve efficiency. Middle hitter Sally Albers, who stepped in on a moment’s notice over the last two weeks for injured Kenadi Barriger, contributed six kills and one block on the day. As Kenadi is full strength, Sally will return to her full time select basketball team. The girls and coaches of H2 STL 15 Black thank you for joining the team in a time of need.
After four 2nd place finishes in Gold, most teams would consider this a successful season. Not to these girls who are hungry to get past this barrier and earn 1st in Gold. Although humble for the experience to earn 2nd, they understand 1st is the prize they want more than anything. This weekend we’re on the road to Bloomington, IL for the JVA Illini Elite 15U/16U Central Finale with the goal of bringing home 1st in Gold for the H2 program! Again ladies, excellent performance on Sunday. Coach Jenna and I are extremely proud of each and every one of you!