EDWARDSVILLE – All season long, the junior class of Rachel Pranger, Rachel Verdun, Megan Woll and Kate Martin has been valuable for the Edwardsville girls’ volleyball team.
On Wednesday, the Cor Jesu Chargers found out why.
Pranger finished with 16 kills and eight digs, Verdun had 25 assists and nine digs, Martin had 11 kills and eight digs and Woll had nine digs and two service aces as the Tigers cruise to a 25-23. 25-14 win over the Chargers at EHS.
The juniors helped the Tigers improve to 14-3 and win their sixth straight match.
“I thought we played really good as a team,” Martin said. “We came out strong from the beginning and I thought we did really good.”
Edwardsville will play a Southwestern Conference road match against the Collinsville Kahoks at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Tigers are 2-0 in league play.
“We watched them play O’Fallon last night,” Edwardsville coach Jami Parker said. “They take a lot of really good swings and have some good passing. The girls have to step back out tomorrow night and play ball.”
The Tigers played their fourth Missouri school on Wednesday. Three weeks ago, they lost to another Missouri state powerhouse -- St. Joseph’s Academy – in three games at home.
Edwardsville will have some more tough competition as its regular season comes down to its final month. The Tigers also have O’Fallon, Belleville East, Belleville West, Mater Dei, Alton and Villa Duchesne and three tournaments left in their regular season schedule.
“I love playing good teams and it’s going to help us down the road,” Martin said. “If we just play teams that are average, we’re not going to get better. These teams really push us and make us play as hard as we can every game.”
The Tigers started their season at 6-0. Earlier this month, they won the Tiger Classic for the first time in nine years.
“I think we’re doing pretty good,” Edwardsville senior Nicki Meyer said. “If we keep playing a clean game, I think we’ll have a good year.”
Last fall, Pranger, Verdun, Woll and Martin were named to the all-Southwestern Conference volleyball team. Pranger had 244 kills, Woll had 496 digs, Verdun had 740 assists and Martin had 52 blocks.
This year, the junior quartet is picking up right where it left off from 2015. Pranger leads the Tigers in kills with 194, Woll has a team-leading 235 digs, Verdun has 357 assists and Martin has 34 blocks.
“Those juniors have been starting out since they were freshmen, so there’s a lot of experience behind them,” Parker said.
Cor Jesu dropped to 9-10-3 with the loss to the Tigers. The Chargers have lost three matches in a row.
“Cor Jesu is a great team,” Parker said. “They have great ball control. They have some good hitters. Their setter did a great job out there. The girls did a nice job tonight on controlling the game tempo and passing well and play some phenomenal defense and they took some really smart shots out there.”
In the first game, the Tigers stormed to a 5-1 lead before Cor Jesu rallied to take a 15-13 lead. The game went back and forth between the two teams before Edwardsville scored the last two points on kills by Pranger.
“In the first game, we weren’t ready like we could have been,” Edwardsville senior Shelby Saye said. “But we stepped up and we started talking and we started playing our own game.”
In the second game, the Tigers led 7-1 and never looked back.
“The girls did a great job of holding their heads and staying level,” Parker said. “We kind of went a rough spot in the middle where we struggled to earn some points. But at the end, they pulled through in the first game. In the second, they stepped right out and got down to business.”