With the Hermann Tournament completed, we now have a much better idea of where our area volleyball teams stand entering the second half of the season.
The annual event pretty much served as an unofficial area championship with the best this area seems to offer.
Hermann edged Borgia in a thrilling championship match last Thursday. Pacific held off New Haven in three games for third place while Washington defeated Owensville for the consolation trophy.
So, what did we learn?
The two championship teams, Hermann and Borgia, probably have the best chances to advance pretty far in the playoffs. However, the path to the state playoffs is blocked by some pretty good teams at the sectional level. Borgia’s sectional has multiple strong teams while Hermann likely would have to find a way around Fatima.
However, if the teams show the moxie they displayed during the championship match Thursday night, I wouldn’t rule out a trip to Cape Girardeau in November for either of them.
The secret is going to be keeping the level of play at the same level as in the title match.
“There was a lot of good defense on both sides of the net,” Hermann Head Coach Linda Lampkin said after the title match. “There were some really long rallies where neither team was going to give up on the ball. Both teams kept some stuff in play that a lot of nights would have just gone down. I think both teams played hard and played to win.”
Borgia Head Coach Brad Bruns noted many positives for his squad.
“There were a lot of positive things which happened tonight which is a step in the right direction,” Bruns said. “I thought our blocking was way better tonight. We didn’t have that many net violations. I thought our attackers did a great job and our setters did a great job of working the ball around the court. Everyone had the chance to get in and contribute.”
Hermann won the championship and is the unofficial area champion. The Four Rivers Conference juggernaut stepped up to defend their home court in the tournament. Other than dropping the first set to Borgia in the title match, the Lady Bearcats were perfect.
Setter Abby Witthaus and hitter Natalie Witte are the only seniors on this year’s Hermann team, so there is plenty of room for growth. Jamie Gleeson is becoming one of the top players in the area and Lampkin and her staff likely will have the team peaking around the time of the district tournament.
Hermann is hosting the district. I’ve seen Linn and heard about Cuba, but feel Hermann has the edge. The big factor may be the Hermann student section, which gives its squad a momentum boost.
Unfortunately, the district winner likely would have to go to Fatima for the sectional event and face the host team in the first match. That’s going to be a tough one. Fatima has beaten Hermann once this season.
I was impressed with Borgia. Not only did the Lady Knights adapt on the fly during the championship match, but they showed the ability to push beyond their previous best levels. They were able to make tactical adjustments on the floor and come up with big plays.
“I expect only the best from Hermann and it’s going to help us for the end of the season,” Bruns stated.
The one thing most don’t realize about Borgia is that Friday’s championship bout was the seventh match the team had played in four days. Besides pool play Tuesday and the two matches Thursday, Borgia played a pair of Archdiocesan Athletic Association matches last week as well, including a lengthy road trip to Trinity on Wednesday.
That was a schedule set up prior to the current athletic administration and could have been a killer on a long night Thursday. However, Borgia seemed to be just as fresh at the end of the match against Hermann as it did at the start of the week.
“This has been a long week,” Bruns said. “They never got tired, and I’m very proud of them for that.”
Borgia has to be a major favorite for the Class 3 District 8 Tournament at Union. Should Borgia capture the title, the District 7 winner (likely St. Dominic) hosts the sectional round. It’s not going to be easy. St. Dominic is one of the top teams in the AAA. District 5 likely will send either defending state champion Villa Duchesne or Westminster. And Duchesne, another AAA team could come out of District 6.
The District 8 champion will have to play the host team in the sectional round, again, not an easy task.
Borgia has three seniors on this year’s team, Hanna Glasetter, Katie Lindemann and Taylor Mentz. However, the team has had success with four sophomores (Molly Arand, Alivia Brinker, Jordan Kriete and Maddie Toelke) and a freshman (Emma Kriete) on the court as well, meaning that the future looks very bright.
Pacific won the third-place match over New Haven last Thursday in three games. Janel Brown has an extremely difficult task this season. Pacific is in Class 4 District 3 along with defending state champion Lafayette, one of the nation’s top teams.
Pacific has six seniors on this year’s team, led by outside hitter Kersten McDonough. Next season seems to be a big rebuilding year and the subvarsity teams will have to contribute quite a bit to next year’s squad. There are only two juniors on this year’s team and four sophomores were on the Hermann Tournament roster.
New Haven, which has done well at the district level historically, faces a difficult district this season. The Lady Shamrocks were shifted to District 5, which includes defending Class 1 state runner-up Valle Catholic of Ste. Genevieve. And the Lady Shamrocks are going to have to go to Bismarck for the district.
The basketball team made that same trip last year on the way to the state championship game. Jaime Hoener’s team hopes that’s a good omen for them as well.
Consolation winner Washington and sixth-place team Owensville have the same problem. Each has difficult districts.
Kym Blankenship’s Lady Jays are in the same district with Lafayette and Pacific. Dwayne Clingman’s Dutchgirls will have to find a way to beat their nemesis Borgia to move through their district.
Washington additionally has a number of injuries. Hopefully the Lady Jays can be back to full strength by the playoffs.
Union, the only area team to not be back for the Thursday final night, is in the same district with Borgia and Owensville. Angie Morris has done remarkable things with the team, which probably should have won sets in pool play against Hermann and Owensville.
Owensville does have an impressive freshman in Hailey Diestelkamp.
Union probably is the most aggressive serving team in the area. In matches the serves are in play, they do very well. If they’re missing the court, it’s going to be a struggle.
Union only has three seniors on this year’s team, Rachael Bassett, Jillian Johnston and Lauren Terschluse. Considering that Union had some injury issues at the tournament, it would seem that the Lady ’Cats could be capable of rising to the occasion when they return to full strength.
Yes, it should be a very interesting second half of the season.