It proved to be a dream start for new St. Francis Borgia Regional volleyball Head Coach CJ Steiger.
Steiger’s Lady Knights recovered from dropping the first set at home Tuesday to Helias to pull out a three-game win, 23-25, 25-15, 25-12.
Borgia (2-0) then went on the road Thursday, defeating Incarnate Word Academy in four games, 25-11, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18. It was the first of several matches Borgia will play this season in a best-of-five format.
“We earned quality wins over two real good quality opponents,” Steiger said. “It was a great start and a good sign of what we can do, but it’s still early in the season and there is a lot of work to be done.”
The home opener Tuesday came against a Helias squad which won the 2017 Class 4 state title and was a 2018 quarterfinalist.
“It was a very good, very scrappy and very well-coached Helias team,” Steiger said. “You got to see a lot of the talent we have and it was on display, for sure. We’ve still got a long way to go and a lot of work to do. We had a lot of good runs, especially in the second and third sets.”
Borgia had chances to take the first game as well. The Lady Knights chased Helias before taking the lead for the first time at 20-19. Borgia was up 22-19 and 23-21 but couldn’t finish it out.
“The ball doesn’t go down easy on their side of the floor,” Steiger said. “They made us earn every single point.”
The second two games were quite different as Borgia found its stride. Helias had a 5-2 lead early in the third game, but Borgia fought back, took the lead, 6-5, and never looked back.
“The biggest key for us was ball control and cutting down on mistakes,” Steiger said. “We had way too many of those in the first set.”
Ella Brinkmann was the kills leader with 10. Kaitlyn Patke was next with seven kills while Abby Lynn and Lily Brown each had five kills. Caroline Glastetter and Lynsey Batson ended with two kills apiece.
Lynn was Borgia’s digs leader with 22. Annie Arand, the libero, had 18 digs while Anna Eckelkamp picked up 11 digs. Brinkmann added nine digs, Gabby Mattli had seven, Batson posted four, Patke and Glastetter each had three and Alicia Baylard and Brown had one dig apiece.
Lynn dished out 23 assists. Arand posted five assists and Mattli added two.
Patke and Brinkmann had four total blocks. Glastetter was next with two. Brown and Batson had one block apiece.
Lynn served three aces. Brinkmann had two while Baylard and Eckelkamp served one ace apiece. Eckelkamp’s ace ended the match.
If facing Helias wasn’t tough enough, Borgia had a major challenge Thursday at Incarnate Word Academy. The two teams played against each other at the sectional tournament over the past three years. That includes two quarterfinal matches in a row with each team winning once.
This time, Borgia prevailed in the first best-of-five match of the season, 25-11, 25-19, 19-25, 25-18. Incarnate Word dropped to 7-1 with the loss.
“It definitely was challenging,” Steiger said. “Incarnate Word is very well-coached by Shane Weber. They’ve got a lot of confidence right now. It was a hostile environment, and a good win for us.”
Brinkmann was the kills leader with 10 while Brown chipped in with eight and Lynn added seven. Glastetter posted six kills, Batson had five and Patke ended with three.
Lynn led the team in digs with 22. Arand was next with 17 and Mattli posted 13. Brinkmann was Borgia’s fourth player in double digits with 10.
Glastetter posted seven digs. Eckelkamp had five. Patke and Batson each added two digs and Baylard and Brown had one apiece.
Lynn recorded 24 assists. Arand had five, Mattli ended with four, Brinkmann had two and Glastetter added one.
Batson posted six total blocks. Patke, Brown and Lynn each had three and Glastetter added two.
Brinkmann served five aces. Lynn had three. Eckelkamp and Arand served two aces apiece.
It was the first time Borgia had played a best-of-five match.
“Best of five made for a long night,” Steiger said. “It was good for us, especially early in the season. Statewide playoffs will be best-of-five starting next year, so getting used to it now can benefit us down the road.”
Borgia hosts the eight-team Borgia Invitational Tournament Saturday. Borgia is in a pool with Kirkwood, Westminster Christian and Francis Howell Central. The other pool consists of Washington, St. Dominic, Parkway West and Lutheran South.
Pool play starts at 8:30 a.m. and Borgia will take on Westminster at that time.
The tournament might run faster, but playoffs are scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. with the finals set for around 5 p.m.