EDWARDSVILLE — After playing 13 matches in two weeks, the Edwardsville Tigers boys' volleyball team is glad to take the weekend off.
“It’s nice to kind of get our legs back for next week,” Edwardsville coach Andy Bersett said.
The Tigers will head into the weekend with a 7-6 mark after pulling off a two-game victory over the CBC Cadets on Thursday at Liberty Middle School. Edwardsville won 25-22, 25-10.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Edwardsville senior Tommy Hartnagel said. “We have a lot of potential. I feel like we can do a lot better than what we’re doing now and we have really high potential this year.”
The Tigers played in tournaments the last two weekends. Edwardsville competed in the Joliet West Tournament on March 25-26 and finished 1-4. Last weekend, the Tigers finished second with a 2-1 mark in the Vianney Invitational.
Edwardsville’s next match will be a home match against East St. Louis on Tuesday. The Tigers also play a road match against Alton on Thursday.
With Thursday’s win over CBC, Edwardsville improved to 2-1 at home.
“They have a really good coaching staff over there,” Bersett said. “(CBC coach) Tommy Young is a guy I went to high school with. He was a year younger than me and we played together at CBC. They do things the right way. I know they have a lot of younger guys and some inexperienced guys, but Tommy is going to get those guys moving forward.”
In the first game, the Cadets came back from a 10-4 deficit to tie it at 20-20.
Edwardsville came back with a 4-0 run to take a 24-20 lead. With the Tigers leading 24-22, Hartnagel scored a kill to give his team the first game victory.
The Tigers cruised to a 12-6 lead in the second game after going on a 5-0 run and never looked back. Hartnagel served an ace to close out the game and match.
“The first game was a little rough for us,” Hartnagel said. “We weren’t completely focused, but when that second game came around, we were ready and we were hyped up and we were excited to play again. We knew we could do a lot better and we did.”
Junior Nick Allen finished with a team-high 10 kills for Edwardsville.
“That guy has been a stud for us so far this year,” Bersett said. “The kid works so hard. He sat on the bench all year last year on varsity behind really good volleyball players and he was a good volleyball player. That’s why we put him there. We challenged him and we had him practice hard against top talent every day last year.”
Also for the Tigers, Hartnagel finished with eight kills, sophomore Bob Dresner had nine digs and nine service points and senior Mike Horton had 25 assists, two solo blocks and seven service points.
Edwardsville has been one of the top boys' volleyball programs in the state in the last five seasons, winning five regional championships and qualifying for state twice. A year ago, the Tigers went 27-7 and won conference and regional titles, but lost to O’Fallon in the sectional semifinals.
“It takes time to build,” Bersett said. “We have more and more guys playing club volleyball. We have more guys playing at younger ages. So when we came in here eight years ago and started it, we had nobody who ever played before. Now we’re making sure that we’re teaching them the right skills and they’re playing a lot of volleyball. That’s the bottom line. We have kids who are playing a lot of volleyball. So when high school season comes, we’re not in spring training mode. We’re ready to go. We’re ready to put things together and that’s kind of the fun part.”
Despite losing six players to graduation last year, the Tigers are optimistic that they will finish with another outstanding season.
“I told the guys the sky’s the limit,” Bersett said. “We lost a ton from last year and I told these guys that I’m excited. I think we’ve got some guys who can improve and get better throughout the year. As a team, I think we can get better throughout the year. We already have shown that we’re playing better volleyball, so I’m really excited about the group as a whole whether it’s the guys on varsity right now or the future with some of the JV guys.”