The Gibault Catholic High School volleyball team hoists its sectional title plaque on Thursday night. (Corey Saathoff photo)
Gibault is one win away from a return trip to the state volleyball tournament following a dominant performance Thursday night in the Class 2A Sparta Sectional final.
The Hawks (24-14) were aggressive from start to finish with a heavy-hitting attack in a 25-12, 25-11 victory over Trico.
With the win, Gibault advances to the Vandalia Supersectional, where they will play Albion (Edwards County) at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Gibault last made a trip to the state tournament in 2011, finishing fourth.
“Play big. That’s all we wanted to do was play big,” Gibault head coach Heather Ebert said. “Big swings. Big attacks. Big everything. And they did a good job.”
Gibault went up 9-4 early in the first set, forcing a Trico timeout. Following a nice point streak with Caralyn Papenberg serving, a kill by Lauren Schmidt — one of her five kills on the night — put the Hawks up 22-8. Strong serves by Kelly Dooley closed out the first set.
“She serves well,” Ebert said of Dooley. “She can put the ball where we need her to put it.”
Ebert added that having Dooley on serve also sets up prime positioning for Gibault’s leader in kills, Lauren Goldschmidt, who recorded 12 on the night.
The second set was more of the same, with the hard-hitting Hawks continuing a relentless attack of the net and pressuring Trico in every aspect of the game.
Ashley Grohmann — who finished with three aces and 23 assists — went on a four-point service run to put Gibault up 8-3 early in the second set, the last point coming on an ace.
“She was putting the ball where it needed to go,” Ebert said of her junior setter.
Up 13-5, Grohmann executed a perfect fake of a setting attempt and ever-so-gently tapped it over the net for another point.
Another strong service run from Dooley put the Hawks on the verge of the sectional title at 23-8, and a kill from Lauren Schmidt moments later set up match point at 24-10. Gibault took the second set, and the sectional championship, with the 25-11 second set win.
Schmidt finished with five kills and one block on the night.
Ebert said it was refreshing for her team to let it loose and be aggressive after having to take a different approach in recent matches against highly touted teams such as Nashville (regional final) and Carlinville (sectional semifinal).
“We knew the teams in our regional were very tough, and then Carlinville was tough on Tuesday, so we had to focus on defense,” she said. “This is the first game we could really focus on offense. It was a fun night and now we’ll get ready for Saturday.”
In the sectional semifinal on Tuesday, the Hawks pulled out a tough 25-18, 21-25, 25-16 win over Carlinville.
“Well, we knew once again they were a big team with several big hitters,” Ebert said of Carlinville. “So we focused on getting them out of system on serve recieve to make it hard for their setter to deliver the ball to their big hitters, which worked. We also focused on big defense to mentally shut their hitters down. ”
Goldschmidt recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs. Dooley pitched in 16 digs and 6 kills. Grohmann had 22 assists and 3 aces, and Papenberg had 3 blocks.
Read about the team’s regional title victory last week by picking up the Nov. 5 print edition of the Republic-Times.