Cavaliers oust Staunton; topple Pinckneyville
By Eric Becker
CARLINVILLE (Nov. 2, 2017) – The dust settled shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday night in the Carlinville High School gymnasium, where the Carlinville volleyball team got to celebrate its 22nd regional championship in 38 years under head coach Fran Struble.
The Cavies were pushed to a third game by a stubborn Staunton team before prevailing 25-20, 19-25, 25-18 for the regional crown.
Carlinville won the season series three match wins to one, with the Bulldogs taking the county crown.
“Thank goodness we won the third one against them, because a lot of times it’s hard to win that third one as you know so much about each other,” Struble said.
It sent the Cavies on an all-expenses paid trip to Nashville and the sectional tournament, where they would face Pinckneyville, winner of the Anna-Jonesboro Regional.
Staunton, finishing 25-15, could not pull off a comeback win despite a valiant effort.
Game one saw the focused Cavies build an 8-2 lead behind six early kills from Anna Chew. Sydney Bates added three points for a 10-2 lead.
The Bulldogs never gave up to their own credit, getting within 22-19 after two points by Becca Caldierero.
Adriann Welte had one of several timely kills in the match to switch the momentum, and Lexi Egelhoff’s kill made it a 25-20 game one win.
“Adriann had some beautiful kills, and I knew she was capable of it,” Struble said.
In game two, Carlinville let Staunton take momentum early and the Bulldogs never let off the gas.
Carlinville never led in game two, falling behind 16-7 after a four-point run by Hollie Bekeske. Sarah Isenberg added an ace for a 21-11 lead.
The Cavaliers did get four straight points from Alyssa DeSpain, two on kills by Emma Griffith, to close within 23-18, but kills from Tori Seago and Kinzie Colley forced a game three.
“The first game, we were just on fire, so focused,” Struble said. “The second one, we just weren’t focused.”
In the huddle going into game three, Struble said, “It’s all up to you. We’ve done everything we can, now it’s up to you.”
Seago opened with a kill to give Staunton’s its lone lead of game three at 1-0.
Bates’ ace serve made it a 6-2 lead, and a three-point run by Chew, ending on a Welte kills, made it a 10-4 game.
Staunton did not go down without a fight, scoring five unanswered. Ashleigh Painter had four points, including an ace, with Seago adding a kill and block to bring the Bulldogs within 10-9.
DeSpain ended that with a kill, then had two points to extend the lead to 13-9.
Eventually, however, the Cavaliers would win the regional on an attack error by the Bulldogs.
“We told them the beginning of the season, don’t worry about your record,” Struble said. “It’s what happens in the end. Because when you go to regionals, it’s 0-0.”
Bates finished with 30 assists, eight points, an ace and four kills. Chew had a match-high 14 kills along with six points. Griffith added six points, and nine kills. DeSpain had eight points and five kills and Welte had six kills. Taylor Wills had four points and 15 digs. DeSpain added 14 digs and Griffith had 10 digs. Jordyn Houseman had nine digs.
Staunton was led by Seago with nine kills. Painter had seven points and seven kills and Colley had seven kills. Bekeske had five points and two aces, and Grace Nichols finished with four points and five kills.
Five Carlinville seniors spoke after the game about what the regional tournament win means to them.
“It means a lot, we’ve worked really hard in practice on and off the court, and to see our hard work pay off is really great, Chew said.”
Bates also commented, “We’ve worked a lot this season and it means a lot as a senior because you don’t want it to end.”
Libero Taylor Wills said that they’ve been playing together since seventh grade and that it is a satisfying conclusion to the high school careers.
“Winning with these girls on the court means so much to me because we’ve been together basically inseparable since the seventh grade,” Wills said. “Spending so many hours on the court together, so it just means the world to win with them.”
DeSpain added, “We’ve all played together for a very long time and finally bring it together and we’ve been working hard for this. It’s good to finally get it.”
Griffith concluded the group interview by adding, “We’ve been together for six years and we’ve worked so hard on and off the court. It just means a ton to win this. So it’s amazing.”
NASHVILLE – Pinckneyville hadn’t lost all season to a Class 2A school. They had 10 less losses than Carlinville and 13 more wins. They traveled 75 less miles to the sectional destination – Nashville – than Carlinville did.
All that did not matter as the Cavaliers strolled into town and emerged with a 25-19, 27-25 win over the Panthers on Monday night.
The Cavaliers take a 22-13 record into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. sectional final against another upstart in Trenton Wesclin, who eliminated Red Bud in three games.
The winner advances to Friday’s supersectional at Vandalia.
“It was absolutely amazing how well the girls played together as a team,” Struble said. “All the things that we talked about and worked on in practice were executed. The defense was fantastic tonight.”
After falling behind 2-0 in game one, the Cavaliers would dominate for most of the remainder of game one.
Bates had an ace serve after a Welte kill to ignite a four-point run to make it a 6-3 lead for the Cavies.
Pinckneyville never got on track after that, as a four-point spurt from DeSpain, capped by a block by Lexi Egelhoff, made it a 15-7 game.
It was 20-10 when the Panthers got a nice run going, getting within 20-16 before a net violation gave the Cavies a sideout. Griffith’s kill won game one, 25-19.
Game two saw the Cavaliers take a lead of 7-4 before the Panthers got going behind Kylee Kling’s serving. She had three straight aces as the Panthers took a 9-7 lead.
But Pinckneyville could not sustain any kind of extended momentum in the game. Carlinville led 20-16 after a DeSpain kill. However, the Panthers would tie the game 21-21 and actually took a 24-22 lead on a kill by Taylor Witges.
Facing two game points, the Cavaliers dug out of trouble. Griffith sided out with a kill, and an error by Pinckneyville tied the game 24-24.
Carlinville took a 25-24 lead on a Griffith kill off a Sarah DeNeve serve, only to be called for a net violation on the next point, tying the game 25-25.
In volleyball’s equivalent of overtime, Griffith and Chew both recorded kills on consecutive points to clinch the match.
Chew finished with 10 kills and three blocks; Griffith had seven kills and Bates had 22 assists, seven points and two aces. Welte had five kills; DeSpain had five points and three kills with 14 digs. DeNeve had five points and nine digs.
Pinckneyville (34-4), which won just their second regional title all-time, got six kills from Emma Banach. Kling had nine points, four aces and four kills. Olivia Szczepanski had seven points.
“Focus, I told the girls during a time out,” Struble said. “You don’t have to hit the ball hard – you just have to put it in the holes on the floor.”