Pirates sail into sectional final

Valmeyer senior Markee Voelker spikes the ball for a point Thursday night at Okawville. For more photos, click here. (Corey Saathoff photo)

The Valmeyer High School volleyball squad is the last local team standing as it continues a playoff run that hopefully sails them north to Normal next weekend.

The Pirates advanced to the Class 1A Trico Sectional championship match taking place Wednesday night thanks to a fairly quick 25-19, 25-16 victory over Goreville on Halloween night.

Brooke Miller had nine kills and Kierstin Miller added eight kills and two aces for Valmeyer.

It was far from an easy match for the top-seeded Pirates in the Class 1A Okawville Regional final Thursday night against the host Rockets, but Valmeyer powered through in the end to win a three-set thriller.

Valmeyer (29-8) won 25-21, 17-25, 25-22 to advance to the Trico Sectional.

The Pirates had previously beaten Okawville this season, 25-16, 25-17 back on Oct. 4. The Rockets were out for revenge Thursday night and it showed.

“Okawville was not the same team we saw a few weeks ago,” Valmeyer head coach Karla Bivins said. “They brought their A game. They had our hitters pegged, as well as our blockers. Their libero dug everything. She had 31 digs.”

Valmeyer marched out to a 12-4 lead in the first set, prompting Okawville to use a time out. The Rockets rallied to make it 12-9, and the battle was on. Valmeyer never surrendered the lead in that set, although it got as close as 20-19 and 21-20 before the Pirates pulled away.

The second set was back-and-forth early, with neither team getting separation until the Rockets went from being up 12-11 to leading 20-13, causing Valmeyer to take a time out.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum… sometimes calling a time out can hurt you more than help,” Bivins said Friday. “I know last night I probably should have called time outs sooner than I did, but I had confidence the girls could work it out.”

Okawville was too determined in that second set, however, as the Rockets blasted off from there.

That sent the match into a deciding third set, which was close throughout.

Valmeyer led 13-8, only to see the Rockets tie it at 16-16. There were multiple long volleys between the teams that impressed fans of both teams, and the score remained tied at 20-20. 

Pirates senior Markee Voelker’s serve proved difficult for the Rockets at this point, leading to a run that finally put Valmeyer up 23-20. Okawville got within a point at 23-22, but the Pirates closed it out from there.

Voelker finished with 15 kills, followed by Brooke Miller with 10 kills and nine blocks. Jayna Krekel had 26 assists. Voelker and Mia McSchooler combined for 44 digs on the night.

“She is so smart about using the off-speed roll shots,” Bivins said of Voelker. “Although, Okawville scraped like crazy and kept balls in play. Okawville resorted to tipping, and the defense we run dug up most balls.”

Bivins also praised the play of both Jayna and Violet Krekel on the night as well as Hannah Gideon.

“She came up with some huge blocks and digs at those moments we needed it the most,” Bivins said of Gideon.

Bivins said her players are hard workers on and off the court.

“They are very hard on themselves and strive to be the best that they can be. When they make mistakes, they tend to be very hard on themselves,” Bivins said. “It’s often hard for them as individuals to pick themselves up. But as a team, they have each other’s backs and look out for each other. They did a great job last night at picking each other up and keeping their heads in the game, mentally and physically. They kept their composure and didn’t panic in crucial situations.”

Up next is a tough Trico squad on their home court for the sectional title. 

With a victory, Valmeyer would advance to the Centralia Supersectional with a berth in the IHSA Class 1A state tournament on the line.

“Now it’s just taking it one point at a time… one game at a time,” Bivins said.

Hawks end season

The Gibault Catholic High School volleyball squad ended its season earlier than it had hoped, falling at home to a tough Carlyle squad in the Class 1A Gibault Regional final on Thursday night.

Carlyle won in two sets, 27-25, 25-22.

Toward the end of the hotly contested match, both teams battled back-and-forth with consistent ties for the last five points.

After outlasting the Hawks in the first set, Carlyle kept up its furious pace in the second set.

Carlyle advanced to the Trico Sectional, where it fell to Trico on Monday night. 

Gibault head coach Kelsey Hartung said she was proud of her team for playing with high energy both Thursday night and throughout the season, and for being able to block out distractions.

“I’m extremely proud of them because this team overcame mental challenges, both as a team and individually,” Hartung said. “During the second half of the season, they focused on one point at a time.”

Gibault opened regional play with a 25-4, 25-4 win over Madison last Tuesday.

Thursday’s home match marked the end of three players’ volleyball careers at Gibault (22-16): outside hitter and Greenville University commit Abby Grohmann, libero Emma Schmidt and defensive specialist Josie Thomas.

Grohmann led the team in kills and blocks in addition to finishing with 482 digs. Schmidt led the team in digs.

The Hawks can look forward to their future knowing they have a strong junior and sophomore class with varsity and postseason experience.

Lucy Range, a junior, led the team in points, aces and assists.

Bulldogs fall in final

The Waterloo High School volleyball squad ended its season with a 25-16, 25-11 loss to Taylorville in the Class 3A Jerseyville Regional final on Thursday. 

Lilly Heck had eight assists and Ally Hanna had three blocks for the Bulldogs.

Waterloo (23-9) advanced to the final by virtue of a 25-22, 25-14 victory over Jerseyville last Tuesday.

With the loss, Waterloo said goodbye to seniors Heck, Josie Briggs, Caroline Arnold, Emily Biffar, Emma Day, Karsyn Lane and Hailey Ray. 

Briggs led the team in points, aces and kills this season. Day was tops in total blocks. 

(with some reporting by Brian Stark)

Pictured is the Valmeyer High School volleyball squad after winning the Class 1A Okawville Regional plaque Thursday night. See more photos by clicking here. (Corey Saathoff 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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