Photo by Bill Roseberry
Varsity members of the Alton Redbird volleyball team pose together. In front from left to right are: Gwen Hunter, sophomore, Kassie Funke, junior and Annie Evans, junior. In back from left to right are: Savannah Fisher, junior, Alexis Shaw senior and Jada Green, senior. Not pictured are: Sydney Schmidt, sophomore, Calista Cox, freshman, Kailin Haug, senior and Josie Hagen, sophomore.
The Alton Redbirds enjoyed a level of regular-season success never before reached by the program in 2014.
Alton posted a 25-8-1 record to set the new benchmark for wins in at the school. The Birds even charged out to an outstanding 19-1 mark before hitting some roadblocks within the Southwestern Conference. Their season came to a halt in the opening round of the Class 4A Edwardsville Regional in a 25-9, 25-11 loss to Springfield.
“Last year was obviously pretty exciting,” AHS head coach Stacey Ferguson. “We have a few returning varsity players that were part of that winning season, so that has helped transition the momentum for this year. There are a lot of girls showing up and working hard and taking things more seriously, realizing that while we might not always be breaking records we can compete. We set the tone a little bit in that regard.”
Senior outside hitter Jada Green, senior right-side hitter Kailin Haug and junior middle hitter Savannah Fisher will spark the Birds as returning starters from last year's squad.
Green led the team with 210 kills in '14. Fisher (90) and Haug (66) were fourth and fifth in kills respectively for Alton. Fisher was second on the team in blocks (38) and digs (364) last season. Haug was second in service points with 191.
“Those few returning players definitely help set the tempo of what to expect,” Ferguson said. “We talked about it and we can't think that (last year) was a one time thing. We need to push forward from there and make that the norm for Alton volleyball.”
AHS did lose some firepower. Megan Paulda and Rachel Cauley leave some holes. They were Nos. 2 and 3 behind Green in kills last year, while Paulda led the team in digs and service points and Cauley led in blocks.
Most of all, the Redbirds will miss 2014 AdVantage News Volleyball Player of the Year Jordan Nolan. Nolan was a three-year setter for them and holds the all-time assists record for the program. Last season she dished out 590 assists.
“Sydney Schmidt, a sophomore, is going to step into the setting role,” Ferguson said. “She's got big shoes to fill. That's the toughest job, taking over for Jordan Nolan.”
Junior middle hitter Annie Evans, sophomore outside hitter Gwen Hunter and senior right-side hitter Alexis Shaw will be key cogs to success also.
Deficiencies in height continue to plaque Alton. The Birds have no players over 6-foot. Green stands the tallest at 5-10. It hurts them in the rugged SWC where they continue to struggle. The Redbirds were 3-4 in league play.
Success has spurred interest in the program and Ferguson thinks that will help.
“I think the combination of having a boys' program at the school and having a winning season — not that we've had awful seasons — but last year has really elevated the popularity of the sport.
“We're always lacking in height and then we need more girls involved in multiple sports or club volleyball. We need to get more of that. I'm seeing more freshmen and sophomores participating in club volleyball.”
Quick Hits/2015 Outlook
TEAM: Alton Redbirds
HEAD COACH: Stacey Ferguson
2014 RECORD: 25-8-1
LAST PLAYOFF: 2014 Class 4A Regional semifinals
NAME HT POS
Jada Green 5-10 OH
Kailin Haug 5-9 RS
Alexis Shaw 5-9 RS
Annie Evans 5-8 MH
Savannah Fisher 5-7 MH
Kassie Funke 5-5 DS
Josie Hagen 5-4 DS
Gwen Hunter 5-6 OH
Sydney Schmidt 5-4 S
Calista Cox 5-3 S/DS
Sept. 1, 5:45 p.m. vs. EA-WR
Sept. 4, 4 p.m. vs. Alton Redbird Classic
Sept. 5, 9 a.m. vs. Alton Redbird Classic
Sept. 9, 5:45 p.m. vs. Belleville East*
Sept. 11, 4:30 p.m. vs. Alton Invitational
Sept, 12, 9 a.m. vs. Alton Invitational
Sept. 14, 5:45 p.m. at Cahokia
Sept. 17, 5:45 p.m. at East St. Louis*
Sept. 21, 6:45 p.m. at Southwestern
Sept. 22, 5:45 p.m. at Collinsville*
Sept. 25-26, TBA at Ritenour Invitational
Sept. 29, 5:45 p.m. at Riverview Gardens
Oct. 1, 5:45 p.m. at Hazelwood Central
Oct. 6, 5:45 vs. Granite City*
Oct. 8, 5:45 p.m. vs. Mater Dei
Oct. 9-10, TBA at Highland Round Robin Tournament
Oct. 13, 5:45 p.m. at O’Fallon*
Oct. 15, 5:45 p.m. vs. Edwardsville*
Oct. 22, 5:45 p.m. at Belleville West*
*Denotes conference games