GODFREY — For the second week in a row Alton High School housed a girls' volleyball tournament.
After the Redbirds were champions of the Redbird Classic, they were only able to muster third at the Alton Invite on Saturday. Fort Zumwalt North garnered the top spot with the Roxana Shells earning second place. The rest of the field rounded out with: Carrollton, Civic Memorial and Jersey.
FZN went 5-0 to nab the title. The Panthers and Shells met on Saturday afternoon, both undefeated and proving to be the championship match of the round robin tourney.
Roxana gave a valiant effort, but ultimately fell 25-21, 25-13. Head coach Mike McKinney was proud of the efforts of his squad in the tournament.
“This is a great way to find out where we're at, what we need to work on,” McKinney said. “I think we played excellent all five matches. Playing against good teams can only make you better and I think the effort we gave this whole tournament to win four matches, our girls are excited. Yeah you want to win the championship, but when you come in and have to play these teams, you can play really well and go 0-5. We found a way to win four and I'm ecstatic for them, they're ecstatic and hopefully we build off that for the rest of the season.”
The Shells started with a 25-19, 25-23 win over Jersey and an 18-25, 25-19, 15-11 victory over CM on Friday. They then opened Saturday play with a 26-24, 25-23 triumph over the host Redbirds and a 25-10, 25-15 win over Carrollton before drawing FZN.
Roxana opened strong against the Panthers, trading blows with them and taking leads of 10-9 and 11-10 midway through the match and later 20-19 and 21-20. Senior Taylor Westfall, who was named to the all-tournament team with fellow Shell Braeden Lackey, provided five kills in Game 1.
FZN proved too much at the net late in the game though. Mya Young supplied a kill and all-tournament selection Jaime Hauser hammered home three kills over the Panthers' final five-point run to win the opening game.
Game 2 was all FZN. Tournament MVP Tiana Jackson flexed her muscles at the net, providing superb blocking, three kills and an ace in the win.
A seven-point spree gave the Panthers a 15-3 lead and a later six-point spurt made it 23-11 as Roxana could never find an answer for the dominant net play.
“We played a very hard fought first game, but once they got into that second game and got on a roll we couldn't stop them,” McKinney said. “They had two good runs on us and we did everything we could but it wasn't enough. Congratulations to them, they earned it.”
McKinney was happy to see Westfall and Lackey make the all-tourney team, but admitted it was a total team effort over the two days.
“They get the award for being all-tournament, but everyone of our kids did a great job. Lackey and Westfall I'm guessing had about 55 kills each in this tournament. We relied on them and kept setting them again and again.
“Westfall is our leader, her, (Niah) Bevolo and (Abby) Palen are the seniors and Lackey is a quiet leader, she just gets the job done. She doesn't do much talking but she does the action on the court.”
Alton had a pair of all-tournament performers, too, with Saddi Brands and Katie Mans. CM senior Kaity Kappler also made the all-tournament team.
The Redbirds and Eagles closed out the tourney with a three-game thriller. Ultimately Alton pulled it out, 24-26, 25-13, 15-12.
Both the Birds and CM were without key seniors early in the day as they were taking ACT tests, but they all returned for the final showdown.
Neither AHS coach Stacey Ferguson nor Eagles' coach Amanda Biggs were very satisfied with the tournament results, but they will attempt to grow from it. Alton went 2-3, while CM was 1-4.
“The girls had a great weekend last weekend and then went up and didn't have the best appearance in Chatham,” Ferguson said. “We really worked in practice Thursday to be prepared to win this tournament knowing it was going to be tough, all these teams are closely competitive. We had an injury on Thursday that took me down an outside hitter, then down the ACT took me down another outside hitter. Those adjustments did consume us a little bit and perhaps shouldn't have.”
Biggs added, “The Alton match was a great test of our ability and it was great to have such a good match with them, but one of our biggest struggles right now is finishing and we've got to be able to keep those leads that we've been earning.
“(The girls) have to take away the positives of a weekend like this and learn from their mistakes.”
CM raced out to a quick start against the Redbirds, building a 9-3 lead. Kennedy Carnes had three kills and teamed with Baleigh Gehrs for a block over the run.
AHS fought back and kept it close, but stayed a couple points behind the Eagles until tying it at 24-24. A kill by Annie Evans cut it to 24-23 and then the Birds tied it, but a kill from Carnes made it 25-24 and the Eagles were able to close it out.
Game 2 stayed close with the Birds leading just 14-12 when they went on a 10-0 run behind Savannah Fisher's service game. Fisher had three straight aces and four total during the spree. Emily Stahl also supplied a kill. Alton closed out the game on an 11-1 run.
“The girls think we really depend on (Fisher) a lot because she's very athletic and works hard and gets the job done,” Ferguson said. “She really got going after taking the (ACT) test and it really helped us and helped build everybody else up. She definitely has that unspoken leadership for sure.”
Alton went ahead 7-3 in the final game behind a kill from Stahl, but the Eagles were able to claw back, tying it 9-9 and going ahead 12-9. Susan Buchanan picked up a kill to help push them in front.
AHS then closed it out with a 6-0 run, highlighted by a kill by Fisher and a block from Fisher and Evans.
The Redbirds now welcome Cahokia at 5:45 p.m. Monday for a non-conference affair. CM heads to Roxana at 6 p.m. on Monday. It's the third meeting for the Shells and Eagles. Roxana is 2-0 against CM in the first two meetings.