EDWARDSVILLE — Momentum carried Belleville West and curtailed Edwardsville in the Metro East Lutheran Regional championship contest Wednesday at Thomas Hooks Gym.
The Maroons snagged it after the Tigers couldn’t sustain it.
West defeated Edwardsville, 25-21, 25-20 to win its first regional title and deny the Tigers their sixth successive championship. The Maroons improved to 22-14-1 in beating the Tigers for the 4th time in 6 meetings at 6 sites. Edwardsville closed with a 19-14 record.
“They are a very good team and we didn’t adjust well enough against them,” Tigers’ coach Andrew Bersett said of the Maroons. “Even when we were up in the first game, I really wasn’t feeling good about the way we were playing.
“Our intensity wasn’t where we wanted it to be.”
Edwardsville scooted ahead 20-15 in the first game, but that’s when Belleville West went to work. The Maroons went on a 10-1 spree to close out the first game and took that energy into the second one. The first game was knotted 7 times, including 21-21 before West tallied the final 4 points.
“We are a team that plays so much better when we are playing with a lot of energy and fun,” Maroons’ coach Austin Betz said.
Senior hitter Nick Stevenson made sure West experienced an enjoyable time. He contributed 3 key kills during their 10-1 binge and continued his strong play into the second game. Stevenson proved to be a difference-maker.
Overall, he accounted for 12 kills, one more than the Tigers’ Nick Allen.
“Nick is one of those guys who you want to give the ball to any one point in the game,” Betz said.
Bersett noted, “He’s a heck of a player, but they aren’t just a one-man team. They have a lot of good players.”
West’s Henry Holm and Tim Neff teamed for 10 kills to complement Stevenson, while Henry Howe also pitched in with solid all-around play to boost them.
Mike Horton collected eight kills for Edwardsville. Ben Lombardi amassed 23 assists, Tommy Hartnagel chipped in with 8 digs and Spencer Burbach logged 7 service points. Horton and Hartnagel are the Tigers’ only senior starters. Edwardsville will return 11 players for 2017.
“We had the effort, but not the level of intensity we needed to beat a team like Belleville West,” Bersett said. “They fought back after we got the lead in the first game and then they went on a run.
“It just wasn’t our night.”
Betz said the Maroons had plenty of inspiration.
“This is our first regional championship in eight years of the program,” he said. “I thought it was our best match of the six against Edwardsville this season because it was our most consistent one.”
Betz added, “I was really happy the way we continued our intensity in the second game tonight. Sometimes after you finish like we did in the first one, you tend to let up a little bit. But we didn’t do that. And Edwardsville didn’t roll over. We did a great job.”
Next up for the Maroons is conference rival O’Fallon. The Panthers defeated Althoff 25-12, 25-12 in the O'Fallon Regional championship match on Wednesday.
West clashes with the Panthers at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Edwardsville’s Lucco-Jackson Gym. It’s a semifinal date of the Frankfort Lincoln-Way East Sectional. The survivor moves on to the sectional final at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Chicagoland school.