Girls Varsity Volleyball
Game Summaries & Headlines.
Redbirds fend off Flyerettes in three sets
Greg Shashack, firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Shashack / The Telegraph
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Alton’s Abbigail Powers celebrates a point with teammates Leilani Hill (back) and Grace Kane (9) during the second set of the Redbirds’ three set SWC victory over East St. Louis on Thursday at Alton High in
GODFREY – After a split of their first eight matches in 2018, Alton volleyball coach Stacey Ferguson was seeking an upgrade more mental than physical from her team.
The Redbirds delivered in Thursday’s Southwestern Conference opener with a 25-23, 19-25, 25-21 victory over the East St. Louis Flyerettes at Alton High.
“One of the things we struggle with sometimes is that mental toughness, whenever adversity face us,” Ferguson said. “I think we showed a little bit more of that toughness tonight than we have in previous matches this season.”
The victory was the third in a row for the 5-4 Redbirds, who are pooled with Staunton, Altamont and Waterloo on Saturday morning at the Belleville East Tournament.
The Redbirds faced a 22-17 deficit in the first set against East Side before rallying to win the set. The Flyerettes would bounce back to win the second game before Alton regrouped to beat East Side for the fourth time in their last five meetings.
“East St. Louis is never an easy team,” Ferguson said. “They’re very athletic, they play hard to the end. It was a great match and great to see us come out on top, of course. … The girls have to understand we have to be confident and we have to maintain control.
“We lose that confidence when things aren’t going well or we make some errors. I told them before the game, all the years I’ve coached I’ve never coached an error-free match. They have to realize they are going to make mistakes and we have to do something positive to follow.”
The Redbirds graduated their three top producers from a 15-18-2 team in 2017 in Emily Stahl, Gwen Hunter and Sydney Schmidt. But the newest edition of Alton volleyball is encouraging to the coach.
“I like the chemistry and energy that they can bring together,” Ferguson said. “I like that we have some younger girls, the offense is run by two sophomores.”
Shiann Johnson and Olivia Ducey, who had limited duty in the role as a freshman, trigger the attack as setters in a 5-2 offense. “Those two, they are running the court,” Ferguson said. “For sophomores, the decisions they make, it’s been fun.”
The Redbirds are using a nine-player rotation with a starting six including the two soph setters, outside hitters in senior Leilani Hill and junior Cully Higgins, middle blockers in senior Abbigail Powers and sophomore Brooke Wolff, with senior Grace Kane back at libero. Senior defensive specialist Rachel Holmes, junior DS Samantha Dosso and junior attacker Janelle Rose complete the rotation, with sophomoreLynna Fischer also competing for court time.
Ferguson is in her 10th season as Alton head coach for a program that has never won a regional championship, has not won a single postseason match in the last 18 years and has not posted a winning record in SWC play since at least the 1990s.
But Ferguson, who has guided the Redbirds to three 20-win seasons including a school-record 25 in 2014, likes the energy she sees in 2018 and the mix of youth supporting seniors Hill, Holmes, Kane and Powers.
“I expect to see continual growth,” Ferguson said. “My seniors have great leadership, great positive attitudes. If they keep it up there, the younger girls are going to follow suit.”