GRANITE CITY — The Alton Redbirds' postseason debut was a successful one on Monday.
In their first postseason match, the Redbirds came from behind to beat the Granite City Warriors in three games — 21-25, 25-15, 25-17 — in a first-round match of the Granite City Regional at Memorial Gymnasium.
"It's pretty exciting," Alton senior Zach Meyer said. "We've been working hard and we all improved immensely since the beginning of the season."
Now, the Redbirds are two wins away from not only winning their first regional championship, but getting a chance to play at sectionals at home. Alton is hosting the sectional tournament, which starts on Friday with the semifinals and ends on June 2 with the championship match.
Alton, the No. 4 seed in the five-team regional, will play top-seeded Edwardsville in the regional semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Tigers have won four straight regional titles and competed in the state tournament for the second time last year.
"That will be definitely a challenge for us because they beat us in both matches by kind of a landslide, but we're going to try our best," Meyer said.
Metro-East Lutheran and East St. Louis will play in the other regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The championship match is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The Warriors, the No. 5 seed, ended their season at 2-17. They beat Alton in three games on April 21 and North County Tech in two games on May 13, both were at home.
"It was pretty tough, but we didn't play to our full potential tonight," Granite City senior George Diak said. "But what are you going to do?"
Granite City will lose its entire varsity roster to graduation as nine seniors, including Diak, played their final high school volleyball match.
"I told them it was a good season," Granite City coach Justin Warren said. "Some of them have been around for a long time. It's going to be hard to fill their spots. But it was a good season. They played as hard as they could and I hope they have a love for the game after this season and some of the good friendships they could last through the years."
With the win on Monday, five Alton seniors will get to play at least another volleyball match — Meyer, Robert Davis, Devin McIntire, Vincent DeFrancesco and Rocky Alderman.
The Redbirds improved to 4-15 and won their second match in a row. Last week, they ended their regular season with a two-game win over Granite City at home.
"The senior night win (over Granite City) and the first regional win were definitely good for these kids," Alton coach Daniel Campbell said. "They definitely wanted it, especially the five seniors. It's very good for them."
The Warriors came back from an 11-4 deficit to win the first game. Granite City closed out the game with a 4-0 run, including a pair of service aces by Diak.
"For the most part, they came together as a team and start hitting the ball, playing defense and picking up stuff, which really helped us win that first game," Warren said.
Alton stormed to a 4-0 lead in the second game and never trailed the rest of the way.
"They just seemed to come out a lot more pumped up in the second game," Diak said. "They had more energy than we did. We got caught on our heels a lot and we weren't there on the blocks. They had some big hits and they took our defense out."
The Warriors led 4-0 in the third game before Alton rallied to take a 9-7 lead on back-to-back kills by DeFrancesco. With the Redbirds leading 24-17, Meyer closed out the game and match with a service ace.
"I think they got a little ahead of themselves tonight and we decided to stop playing defense like I know we can," Warren said. "We started tipping the ball and setting the ball over. In the first timeout we had, I said you need to quit playing timid and go after it and play aggressive and go and hit and go after everything. This maybe your last game this season and you're leaving a bunch of stuff on the floor. They came back out and played for a little bit and they died on me again."
Campbell said he was happy to pick up a come-from-behind victory over Granite City.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge," Campbell said. "They knew they could do it. I think they were little nerves setting in to start out, but after that, they were like, 'It's another game. It's volleyball. We can do it.' ”