ALTON — The Marquette Catholic Explorers overcame a five-point deficit in the final game to defeat the Metro East Lutheran Knights in Wednesday's Prairie State Conference contest in Alton, 25-13, 25-22.
The Knights led 20-15 in the second game, their biggest of the game. However, the Explorers proved their ability to change the momentum. Regina Guehlstorf’s kill cut the score to 20-16.
Marquette continued to fight and pulled the score within one-point at two different times late in the game, as Metro led 21-20 and 22-21. Guehlstorf’s four-point serving run at the end of the game gave the Explorers a 25-22 lead to seal MELHS' fate.
Senior middle hitter Michelle Cameron nailed kills on the 23rd and 24th point. The Explorers outscored the Knights 11-2 at the end of the game. Cameron led the team in kills with eight. Guehlstorf had four.
“It was mental toughness,” Marquette coach Sue Heinz said on the comeback on a night when the program celebrated volleyball alumni night. “The communication was spot on. The communication between my setter and my hitters, especially Michelle, they have a good rapport with each other.”
Cameron talked about team support.
“I love my setter (Marissa Nosco), I can really count on her,” she said. “It’s a set I can put down and without her, I can’t hit.”
Early in the second game, the contest was tied up at three, four, five, seven, eight, and 13 points.
The first game was also close in their early minutes, as it was tied up at two, three, four and seven points. Marquette pulled ahead 11-8. Then a 10-point serving run from Nosco made the score 21-8. Nosco had six aces in the run.
“It was hugely instrumental,” Heinz said. “It gives us the push that we need and it builds confidence when we’re playing like that.”
Nosco thought she had the right mental attitude.
“I stayed confident and got as mad at the ball as I could,” she said. “And the team really helped me keep going, in making sure I had the right form.”
The Explorers won the first game 25-13. The Knights put together a four-point run to cut the lead to 22-13, but the margin was too big to mount a comeback.
“I was really impressed with their comeback in the first game,” MELHS coach Jon Giordano said. “It was too little and too late, they took all of the steam out of our fight.”
Giordano also said the Knights’ blocking fell apart down the stretch.
“There were a lot of vulnerabilities, unfortunately,” he said. “And we just could not pass consistently. Our end game digging was really good, but our servicing really struggled tonight. We didn’t have enough strings of good things together to be successful.”
The Explorers improved to 10-11 overall and 2-2 on the league slate with the victory. The Knights dropped to 7-15 overall and 1-2 in the PSC. For Metro, Courtney Fenelon led her team in kills with seven, while Lydia Flaherty had 13 assists.
Cameron had eight blocks to accompany her eight kills for Marquette, while Nosco dished out 16 assists, had 12 service points, five aces and eight digs. Laura Hamilton paced the defense with 15 digs.
MELHS returns to conference action at 7 p.m. tonight with a home match against East Alton-Wood River. The Explorers play at 7 p.m. tonight at home against Brussels.