Photo by Jeff Helmkamp
Edwardsville senior libero Nicki Meyer goes for a dig in a home match against Cor Jesu on Sept. 28.
When they were in eighth grade, Nicki Meyer and Shelbey Saye helped the Edwardsville Lincoln Middle School volleyball team qualify for the state tournament.
“It was exciting because it was our last year there,” Saye said.
Now, they are hoping to end their high school volleyball careers with a trip to the state tournament. Meyer, a defensive specialist, and Saye, a setter, are the only seniors on the Edwardsville volleyball team.
“That would be so nice,” Meyer said. “It’s one of our goals all throughout my high school career. It’s been the goal for the team to get to state and I think we have a pretty good shot this year.”
The Tigers are looking to qualify for state for the first time since 2010 and only the second time in school history.
“I think our girls can do it,” Saye said.
So far, the Tigers are enjoying an outstanding season. Edwardsville took a 15-3 record into Tuesday’s match with O’Fallon.
The Tigers will play at Belleville East on Thursday. They also have Villa Duchesne, Belleville West, Alton, Mater Dei and two tournaments (the Mizuno Classic on Friday and Saturday and the Lyons Township Tournament) left on their regular season schedule.
“I think we’re going to go far,” Saye said. “I think that we’re younger and I think our minds are going to keep growing and we’re going to get better with every game we play.”
The Tigers, 25-11 last year, roared to a 6-0 start after winning the Tiger Classic on Sept. 3 for the first time in nine years. Edwardsville was also 3-0 in Southwestern Conference play entering this week, after getting wins over Granite City, East St. Louis and Collinsville to start league action.
Meyer and Saye are playing for an Edwardsville team that has four outstanding juniors in Rachel Pranger, Megan Woll, Kate Martin and Rachel Verdun. All four players earned all-Southwestern Conference honors in 2015.
“I love them,” Martin said. “I wouldn’t have any other seniors. They’re amazing. They’re so fun and they’re good leaders.”
Pranger is the Tigers’ leader in kills with 201, Verdun has a team-high 370 assists, Woll leads the team in digs with 244 and Martin has 34 blocks. Meyer is among the team’s leaders in digs with 148 and Saye has 33 kills.
“The great part of this team is they all gel so well together,” Edwardsville coach Jami Parker said. “Shelbey and Nikki are doing a great job. The juniors are right in there with them with a lot of experience. We’re starting a freshman (Maria Smith) and a sophomore (Corrine Timmerman) as well. The beauty of this group is their chemistry together and how well they all work with one another. They’re a lot of fun to coach.”
Meyer and Saye have been valuable to the Tigers since they joined the team when they were freshmen. They helped Edwardsville finish with three winning seasons and capture two SWC titles. They also were part of an Edwardsville team that won a regional title in their freshman season.
“These guys are special seniors to go through together because I had them for a long time,” Parker said. “I got to watch them grow since they were kids into the young women they are today. I’d love to see us have a great season. I’d love for these girls to go out on a good note. It’s a joy to watch them play and watch them have such a great senior year.”
In 2013, Saye and Meyer helped the Lincoln eighth-grade volleyball team finish with a 21-2-1 record and qualify for the IESA state tournament. Lincoln, which was coached by Parker, lost to Manteno in two games in the first round.
“They were my two primary passers, they were my two setters and they were my two outside hitters,” Parker said. “They played a lot of positions and wore a lot of hats that year and they did the same thing coming up (at EHS).”
Volleyball is the only sport Meyer and Saye play at EHS. They started playing it when they were in Lincoln.
“I like the game,” said Saye, who played with her older sister, Camrey, when she was a freshman. “I like playing with my teammates. I like the environment of the gym.”
“It’s not like there’s a slow part in the game,” Meyer said. “You’re always trying to dig a ball and you’re always on the floor. It’s a competitive, fast-paced game.”
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