The weekend of 10 and 11 March, H2 STL 15 Black travelled to Bloomington, IL to compete in the JVA Illini Elite 15U/16U Central Finale. Entering the tournament, the team was hot and only continuing their streak finishing 2nd in Gold in the previous two week’s tournaments. The girls knew we were going to face a challenge being without right side Myah Helmkamp due to an appendicitis and middle Kenadi Barriger coming off a knee injury that limited her game play over the last two tournaments. As always, we employed the “next athlete up” mentality with setter Anna Richter stepping in the role of now setter/RS.
The JVA was going to test them in this 26-team field. Seeded 2nd to last overall at 25th, it was evident on the first day that these teams did not know what was stepping into their complex…and we were reminded of that by parents and coaches. Day 1 brought an across the board dominant performance from the team taking out Illini Elite 16 Silver, Illini United 16U and Lincoln Fusion 16U all in two set sweeps. Producing very few errors and stepping to the serve line putting our opponents in an out of system role for most of the matches, the teams didn’t have an answer for our fast transitions and overpowering attacks.
Day 2 started off interestingly. Coming out of the infamous Day Light Savings Time Spring Forward, the girls came out a little sluggish dropping the first set to #1 overall seed Illini Elite 16 Blue 25-16. Crazy enough, we were all smiles because we knew exactly what we needed to do and knew what happened the 1st set. We started out hot from the beginning and didn’t let up taking the 2nd set 25-14. Now the ladies have their rhythm and taking it to a 3rd set Illini Elite jumped out to a quick lead that after a much-needed time out, we chipped away at to get to 8-7. Then, back to back errant referee calls after the court switch hurt our momentum. The girls continued to claw back, but the scoreboard ended out at 15-13 Illini Blue. After the game, our heads were up because they knew what they needed to do to win out. After a long rest period, not by choice (see insert pic), the ladies came out with a vengeance on Primetime 16U taking them out in a quick two set sweep 25-17 25-11. Finally, oddly how the Gold bracket play was setup, pinned us in a rematch of Day 1 against Lincoln Fusion 16U. We started off slow, as Fusion started off hot…that’s never a good combination. In surprise to those on and off the court, Fusion took the 1st set 25-20. Starting off the 2nd set, setter Anna Richter stepped to the serve line and went off on a nine-service run with three aces. As the sleeping bear woke, H2 15 Black didn’t look back and took the 2nd set 25-19. Pumped with excitement as they stepped on to battle for the 3rd and final set, again, a service run from the start was key. Outside hitter Tori Mohesky came out guns-a-blazin’ with an eight-serve run with four aces and right behind her middle hitter Riley Kleber brought her power jump float to the table with a three-serve run and two aces. After another side out, up 11-2 next to the line was setter Sarah Gingrich taking her four-serve run and two aces to a 14-3 lead. Fusion gaining one more point was eventually closed out at 15-4.
The two-day JVA event gave the girls their first test of the season with competition outside of the Gateway Region. Even though the final standings weren’t of a satisfaction to the girls placing 5th overall in Gold, it was rewarding starting out as the second lowest seed, competing as the only 15U team in Gold, going 5-1 against all 16U teams only dropping two sets and taking the overall #1 seed to three sets was promising leading into the big season push of April.
Throughout the weekend, the ladies threw up some huge statistics. Starting with outside hitter finishing with 44 kills taking her team lead to 147 kills on the season. Defensively Tori brought in 27 digs and serving 29 aces finishing with a tournament triple, double. On her heals was middle hitter Riley Kleber with 33 kills taking her to 2nd best 120 kills on the season. The full strength return of middle hitter Kenadi Barriger paid dividends to the team with her 31 kills on the weekend bringing her season total to 91. Her five blocks brings her to 19 blocks on the season. After a slow start on the season, a couple swing corrections added, outside hitter Hailey Cortinas had a personal season best 22 kills, 10 aces and 29 digs giving Hailey her first triple, double on the season. Right side hitter Cami Marteeny has made steady improvements over the past three tournaments, but this tournament really stepped up her game hammering down 19 kills with a couple huge out of system kills on Day 2 that were momentum swingers for the team. Defensively, 2nd year Libero Emily Johnston led the team with 42 digs bringing her season total to a staggering 176 digs. Setter Sarah Gingrich is continuing her path as a stand out setter in her first year with this team adding 65 assists. With her season total at 241 assists, Sarah is running her rotations very well. Standing in for the ill Myah Helmkamp on the right side, setter Anna Richter delivered 84 assists to the hitters giving her a team lead 287 assists on the season. In addition, Anna’s float serves netted 10 aces and 13 out of system serves at a 97% serve ratio.
On a side note, H2 STL 15 Black welcomed back outside hitter Hailey Cortinas Dad, Air Force Technical Sergeant Jesus Cortinas, from an eight-month deployment. It was a perfectly planned welcoming needing the full team parents and players to keep it Top Secret. 😊 Overall, the JVA tournament showed the girls some areas of improvement over the next couple of weeks leading into the Show Me Qualifier in Kansas City. This weekend, the ladies return to competition to battle it out at the 16U level once more at the Southwestern Illinois Campus Saturday Follies. Great job ladies!