Pirates win sectional; Eagles suffer defeat

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The sectional champion Valmeyer Pirates volleyball team. For more photos from Thursday’s game, click here. (Kermit Constantine photo)

The Valmeyer Pirates advanced while the Columbia Eagles ended their season in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday night.

In a Class 1A sectional title game at Norris City, the Pirates improved to 25-11 on the season with a thrilling 25-17, 17-25, 25-23 victory over Christopher.

Sam Seidel led the way with 10 kills, including the knockout blow in the third game, as Valmeyer moved on to Saturday’s super-sectional contest against Clay City in Centralia. The amazing run for the Pirates stopped there, however, as Valmeyer lost in two games.

After sailing to win the first game on Thursday, Valmeyer struggled in the second game.

“We had momentum from the second game even though we lost,” Valmeyer head coach Jenny Kohnz said. “We came out with a commanding lead, and were up by at least 10 points at once.”

Valmeyer went up 17-7 in the final game, spurred on by a six-point service run by Savannah Williams, and the team looked to be in control of the match. But Christopher would not go away, eventually tying the deciding game at 22-22 before Seidel put the game away.

In addition to Seidel, the Pirates received strong efforts from Jordyn Killy and 6-foot-2 junior middle hitter April Thomason with eight kills apiece. Williams added six kills. Guin Kohnz and Blair Brady ran the offense with 14 assists each.

“We have a well-rounded attack. Every game, we have a new kill leader,” Kohnz said. “I believe this is why we are so successful.”

Valmeyer reach the sectional final by virtue of a 25-20, 25-22 win over Crab Orchard on Tuesday. Killy led the way with eight kills, followed by Thomason with five and Brady with four kills. Cierra Goldschmidt added nine digs.

“We didn’t necessarily bring our ‘A’ game, but we played good enough to win,” Kohnz said.

Colene Hamilton goes to the net for Columbia on Thursday. For more photos from the game, click here. (Alan Dooley photo)

In Class 3A, Columbia battled a tough Mascoutah team in a sectional final showdown on Thursday that was moved from Herrin to Belleville West for closer access to both schools and their fans.

After falling in the first game, 19-25, the Eagles stormed back to win the second game, 25-23.

But Mascoutah came storming back in the deciding game, jumping out to an insurmountable lead before overcoming Columbia, 25-11. It appeared the Eagles just ran out of gas.

“Mascoutah is a very good blocking team and we knew that going into the match.  We did a nice job adjusting at times to their block,” Columbia head coach Kelly Landgraf said.  “We struggled throughout the night with our serve receive, which is very uncharacteristic of the team.  Mascoutah served us very tough and that caused the breakdown in our entire game, passing and offense.”

Both schools were backed by large enthusiastic crowds of parents and students.

Columbia ends its season at 33-5, but will return several key players next year, including Colene Hamilton, Kelly Metter, Elizabeth Fleming, Shea Bradshaw, Jordan Hausmann and Alyssa Yochum.

“We had a great season. We are very sad to see our four seniors (Allie Jackson, Abby Osland, Claire Long, Claire Foster) leave and it has been so much fun watching them grow throughout their four years on the team,” Landgraf said. “We will return most of our lineup next season.”

Columbia reached the sectional final by defeating Murphysboro in two sets on Tuesday night, 25-16, 25-17.

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