Volleyball teams off to a hot start

The Columbia Eagles celebrate their first place finish at the Marissa Tournament Sept. 5. (submitted photo)

With the volleyball season well into its third week, strong performances and hard-fought contests characterize the play of area teams, several of which are excelling on the hardwood.

Columbia head coach Kelly Landgraf’s team is off to a 6-1 start and fresh off a first-place finish at the Marissa Tournament.

“I am very pleased with how the girls have grown over the past seven games,” she said. “They have really worked hard in practice and games to work together as a team and grown each game.”

And even on the rare occasion the Eagles aren’t winning, they are still learning and coming closer as a team — a key to their success, according to Landgraf.

“The Althoff game was a big game for us and even though we lost I liked how we played,” she said.

She thought her girls worked hard competing against Althoff’s elite program and were able to make adjustments to their brand of quick play.

“The championship game of the Marissa tournament against Gibault was another big game,” she said. “They seem to run a very quick offense and my girls moved very well and anticipated on defense.”

Landgraf has been especially pleased with the play of Kendall Roessler, who is back on offense after coming off an injury, as well as Megan Huffman, who leads in assists and controls the offense.

“Both of these girls played at the varsity level last year so they understand the speed of the game and what it takes to compete at the varsity level,” Landgraf said. “Taryn Pena did a really nice job in the back row at the Marissa tournament and provided us with a little spark and vocal leadership.”

Landgraf said her team is looking forward to the Sept. 12 game against Waterloo.

“That is always a fun rivalry. There is always a big crowd that shows up and the atmosphere is a lot of fun. We then hit the conference games and we play in a tough conference. The outcome of those matches will really give me an idea of where we are,” she said.

Gibault head coach Heather Ebert is also pleased with her team’s performance so far. Out to a 5-2 start on the season, they took home second place in the Marissa Tournament.

“I have a very strong team that is willing to learn to improve their game,” Ebert said. “They are pushing themselves to play outside their comfort zones in order to improve.”

Their game against Columbia in the Marissa Tourney finals was a learning experience for her team, and she said her girls learned about the need to play aggressively from the first point.

Their schedule isn’t gong to lighten up, as they travel to O’Fallon on Friday, the first big school on their schedule.

She expects her seniors to continue to step up in the tough games ahead.

“Courtney Schutt, Katy Gyore and Missy Kimlinger make an offensive force while Brittany Laurent is doing excellent in her new libero role,” Ebert said.

Coming off a fourth-place finish at state in 2012, the Valmeyer Pirates have had what head coach Jenny Kohnz considers a great start to the season at 4 -2.

They won their home opener, at which they were presented their state banner to hang it the gym, and placed fourth in the Marissa Tournament, falling to Red Bud in the third place match.

“Red Bud has a solid team with some powerful hitting from the right side. We need to improve our blocking to have a better chance at winning the game,” Kohnz said.

Valmeyer plays their first conference match of the season Tuesday against Lebanon, and have a rematch with Red Bud Wednesday night.

“Lebanon advanced to the super-sectional last year, so I am expecting them to have a tough team,” Kohnz said.

But anticipating strong performances by setter Miranda Kaufmann, who leads the team in assists and kills, and libero Morgan Redohl, Kohnz likes her team’s chances this season. Red Bud has a record of 3-4, having defeated Valmeyer Sept. 6. With upcoming matches against Breese Central Sept. 10 and New Athens Sept. 12, both at home, the Musketeers have a chance to raise their record above .500 before the first month of play is over.

“We also shared the conference title last year with (Lebanon),” Kohnz said. “One of our goals is to win the conference title outright this year. We don’t want to share.”

The Waterloo Bulldogs had an uncharacteristically rough start to their season, but seem to be turning it around under the guidance of Angie Crawford.

They have won their last two games for a record of 2-5, and enter Thursday’s game against a 4-4 East St. Louis team playing their strongest ball of the young season.

Dupo is also looking to play more consistent ball after losing two of their last three games. But coming off a win against Madison, they enter Tuesday’s game in Marissa ready to start putting together a winning streak.

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