While the St. Francis Borgia Regional volleyball Lady Knights know how to get to the Hermann Invitational Tournament title contest, winning it has been the challenge in recent years.
That changed Thursday night as the Lady Knights (19-3) rallied past Hermann (13-5) to claim their 21st title since 1982, 25-27, 28-26, 25-18.
“We got that monkey off of our back,” Borgia Head Coach CJ Steiger said. “Nothing was going to come easy tonight. That’s a tough team over there. They played extremely hard and this is their place. It was nothing we didn’t expect and they played extremely well.”
Borgia’s players were excited to bring home the trophy.
“It feels so good,” senior setter Abby Lynn said. “I’m so tired, but I’ve been waiting for this since I got into high school. We’ve always wanted to beat Washington to win it, but we beat Hermann this year and we still won it.”
Sophomore outside hitter Ella Brinkmann, who posted a double-double with 18 kills and 12 digs, said this was a target.
“This feels great,” Brinkmann said. “We’ve been wanting this for so long, so it’s just another step toward our goals.”
While Borgia had reached the title match for the 10th year in a row, it was the first time they had won since 2014. Washington won the last four titles over the Lady Knights. Borgia’s last championship came over New Haven.
“Washington is always our rival, but Hermann is a great team,” Lynn said. “They played really well. They were very scrappy. It was hard to beat them, but we pulled through and we were communicating and we played a lot better than we have been playing.”
If there’s a good omen for the Lady Knights, the last time they beat Hermann for the tournament title, they went on to win the Class 3 state championship (2013).
In the title contest, Hermann jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening game. Borgia chipped back slowly and finally tied it at 19-19.
Borgia’s first lead of the game came at 22-21. The Lady Knights had a 23-22 advantage, but couldn’t close it out. Hermann couldn’t either and it went past the 25-point mark.
Grace Winkelmann posted a kill to give Hermann set point and then closed it out with an ace.
In the second game, Borgia grabbed an advantage, 14-9, but Hermann came back and reached match point first, 24-23, on a Winkelmann kill.
Brinkmann equalized for Borgia and the teams traded the lead. Hermann had match point three times. Brinkmann and Lily Brown logged kills to give Borgia the win, 28-26.
“I don’t know if it was anything we did as coaches,” Steiger said. “It was the heart of the team. They trusted and leaned on each other and were able to get the job done against a real tough team. You can’t take anything away from Hermann. It was a hard-fought battle and luckily we came out on the right side of that.”
Lynn said Borgia realized it wasn’t ready to finish the night on that note.
“We pulled back and realized the game was far from over,” Lynn said. “All we needed to do was focus on one point at a time and we came back.”
“It wasn’t so much worry, but it was confidence that we could get this back and we’ve got this,” Brinkmann said. “I believe in my team and I believe we executed well.”
For the second time on the night, Borgia went to a third set.
“It’s not a trend we want to have, but at least it showed some resilience,” Steiger said. “We fought hard and came back.”
Hermann grabbed the early lead, but Borgia started going on small runs to move ahead, building up a five-point cushion, and holding that edge for much of the rest of the match, winning 25-18.
Brinkmann led Borgia with 18 kills, but she wasn’t Borgia’s complete offense.
Lynn and Brown each had nine kills. Brown, celebrating a birthday, became a force in the second and third games from the left side and Hermann struggled to defend attacks down the line.
“This is probably one of the best birthday presents you can get,” Brinkmann said. “She’s been a great help to our team and we love her here.”
The middles chipped in with nine kills with Lynsey Batson getting five and Kaitlyn Patke ending with four.
Caroline Glastetter had three kills while Alicia Baylard added one.
“Every hitter definitely worked their butt off tonight,” Lynn said. “Ella, at one time, had four hits in a row. She kept working and she played amazing as did Lily and Kaitlyn Patke. Kaitlyn is just now starting to get the hang of slides and she’s killing it. Her blocking is incredible. They were all working hard tonight.”
In the digs department, Annie Arand led the way with 23. Lynn ended with 16 while Brinkmann and Gabby Mattli each had 12. Baylard posted three, Brown added two and Glastetter ended with one.
Lynn recorded 33 assists. Arand stepped up to post six. Mattli added four, Brinkmann had two and Brown ended with one.
“Abby is a very talented setter,” Brinkmann said. “She knows what she’s doing. She’s been doing this for a long time. She knows how to mix it up so the other team doesn’t know where she’s going.”
Patke and Batson each had five blocks. Lynn was next with three. Brown had two while Glastetter posted one.
It was Borgia’s blocking game which made a big difference in the second and third sets, especially against Winkelmann. The Lady Knights triple blocked her at times, trying to make it easier for the defense to pick up the ball.
Patke served two aces while Mattli and Brown each had one. Borgia ended with 12 service errors.
“There’s definitely stuff to work on and clean up, but we got two good wins tonight,” Steiger said.
For Hermann, Winkelmann was the focus of the attack with 16 kills, half of Hermann’s output.
Chloe Witte added seven kills, Malerie Schutt and Ellie Engemann ended with three, Grace Godat had two and Hannah Grosse closed with one.
Winkelmann recorded 10 digs.
Grosse posted 30 assists. Winkelmann and Macie Witthaus each had one.
Godat logged five blocks. Schutt ended with three. Engemann and Winkelmann recorded two and Grosse had one.
Grosse and Witte each served three aces. Winkelmann added two.
If you missed this match, the two teams play again Oct. 21 at Borgia, although no plaque will be on the line that night.
Lynn knows there will be a good atmosphere that night as well.
“Everyone’s ecstatic,” Lynn said. “Our cheering section was so loud (tonight) and everyone was after it.”