New coach has Hawks eyeing state bid

Pictured is the Gibault volleyball squad with its sectional championship plaque on Wednesday night. Interim head coach Bob Vollmer is standing at left. (Bob Haentzler photo)

Following the regular season, Gibault Catholic High School volleyball head coach Kelsey Hartung was unable to serve in her role for the postseason, temporarily handing the reins over to assistant coach Bob Vollmer.

It certainly was a trial by fire, but now Vollmer’s red hot Hawks are playing in the Class 1A Raymond Supersectional. He’s just keeping the seat warm for Hartung, who is expected to return as head coach after Friday.

“I just kept them positive,” Vollmer said of his approach to the coaching switch.

Vollmer has plenty of experience in the sport. He serves as an assistant for both the men’s and women’s volleyball programs at McKendree University. Vollmer also coaches club volleyball. A former sand volleyball player, Vollmer also owns Rocket Beach Volleyball Club, which is a select sand volleyball program.

Gibault’s postseason run with its interim head coach began with a regional title at New Athens last Thursday over a higher-seeded Okawville squad. That win was special for Vollmer, who is an Okawville native.

“To knock them off was something,” he said.

Then came the Marissa Sectional, which came down to a rivalry title showdown with Valmeyer on Wednesday night.

Gibault (21-16) took down the Pirates (27-12) in two sets, 25-20, 25-17, for the program’s first sectional crown since 2014.

Abby Grohmann led the Hawks with 10 kills. Lucy Range had 12 points and 13 assists.

Vollmer said his team executed its strategy, which resulted in keeping Valmeyer out of its system.

“They are really good,” Vollmer said of the Pirates. “We focused on double blocking the middle and really working on serving.”

Next up is a date with Springfield Lutheran (31-5) on Friday night at Raymond. The winner advances to the state tournament. The last time Gibault qualified for state in volleyball was 10 years ago.

“They are going to be tough,” Vollmer said of Friday’s opponent.

Gibault is the lowest seed remaining of all classes of volleyball in Illinois, so Vollmer has used that as motivation.

He added that keeping the players prepared for each match and focused on the task at hand has paid dividends.

“My girls are so focused,” Vollmer said. “Keeping them in a routine has helped them out a lot.”

Key players for the Hawks include Grohmann, a junior who led the team in kills last season. After battling a knee problem during the regular season, Vollmer said Grohmann is closer to 100 percent.

Another standout is Range, a sophomore southpaw who leads the team in many statistical categories.

“She is just eating it up,” Vollmer said. “She’s been a big help on setting and hitting.”

Range’s older sister, Ella, is a senior leader of the squad, Vollmer said.

“She keeps us in system,” Vollmer said of his libero. “She’s everywhere. She’s our defense.”

Vollmer said he’s enjoyed leading the small-school Hawks on this postseason journey.

“I drive the bus, too,” he added with a chuckle.

With a win Friday night, the team bus will be driving up to Redbird Arena in Normal next weekend.

Gibault players celebrate during Wednesday’s sectional title win over Valmeyer. (Bob Haentzler photo)
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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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