GODFREY — A year ago, the Granite City Warriors won just two matches.
On Tuesday, the Warriors surpassed last year’s win total with a two-game victory over the Alton Redbirds at Alton High. Granite City improved to 3-6 with a 25-14, 25-18 win over Alton and is hoping to finish with its second winning season in program history.
“We’re super excited about that, but hopefully we’ll keep adding on to it,” Granite City coach Justin Warren said. “We have to keep working on skills and coming together and playing as hard as we can.”
The Warriors will get an eight-day break before returning to action on April 27 with a road match against Althoff. Granite City has eight regular season matches remaining, six of them will be at home.
Alton dropped to 1-6 overall and 1-5 in Southwestern Conference play with the loss to the Warriors. The Redbirds’ next match will be against Chaminade on Thursday at home.
The Warriors came into this season with just one player with varsity experience — senior Ben Schipkowski — and numerous new players such as senior Cameron Paolucci, junior Alex Schipkowski, sophomore Kobey Meyer-Ronk and freshman Zach Underwood.
Granite City lost nine players from last year’s team to graduation.
Still, Warren was optimistic that his team was going to turn in a strong season.
“I knew some of the guys have played club ball before, so my expectations were really high,” the Granite City coach said. “Coming together as a team is the only issue we have right now. We’re working on things here and there, but for the most part, the skill level is there.”
Granite City, which picked up victories over East St. Louis and Gibault, beat Alton for the second time in four meetings. Last year, the Warriors finished 1-2 against the Redbirds.
“We played good together and we talked,” Ben Schipkowski said. “It’s a good win. We passed as a team, our sets were clean and our hits were all good.”
The Warriors came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the first game. Ben Schipkowski gave the Warriors a 4-2 lead after serving three straight points. Later, Alex Schipkowski served 12 straight points, including four aces, to boost the Warriors’ lead to 17-4.
“The Schipkowski brothers do a great job,” Warren said. “They really come together on the court. It’s pretty awesome to see.”
Alton led the second game 12-8 before the Warriors rallied with a 17-6 run to win the game and match.
“In the second game, I led into them,” Alton coach Daniel Campbell said. “They got excited. We were in the game and we were winning the game. The setter (Ben Schipkowski) was connecting very well for Granite City with their outside hitter (Underwood), who was doing very well. They started getting a couple of points and they got excited on their side and we just fell flat. We didn’t fight back. We didn’t control them. That was pretty much the outcome of the game.”
Warren said he was impressed with the performance of Underwood. The freshman finished with 11 kills.
“Zach is a good kid and plays very hard,” Warren said. “He played select the last four years. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s a great hitter and he goes out there and tries his best every time. That’s all I can ask for.”
Granite City, which is playing in its ninth season, also improved to 2-4 in conference play. Last year, the Warriors had just one league win, which was against Alton.
“We had a good time,” Warren said. “The guys played well together tonight. There was some ugly play out there, but we came together and stuck through it and played our game. Whenever the guys come together as a team and play well, we can compete with almost anybody.”