Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton girls’ volleyball head coach Stacey Ferguson talks with her team Oct. 6 at AHS during a match with Granite City. The Redbirds entered this week with 21 wins on the season.
Savannah Fisher said there’s no secret to the success of the Alton High volleyball team this season. The team that plays together tends to stay together.
It’s sort of a bonding effect in a family affair.
“I think our team chemistry is strong,” said Fisher, a talented junior middle hitter. “When we get it all together, we are really good.”
The Redbirds have been really good for much of the season. They owned a 21-9-1 mark going into this week’s action. Alton, 2-2 in the rugged Southwestern Conference, still had dates remaining with O’Fallon, Edwardsville and Belleville West.
“We’re starting to come together. Our passing is better,” said senior hitter Jada Green, closing in on single-season and career kills records.
She added, “We worked a lot during the off-season and that has helped us this year in building up our skills.
“We want to begin playing our best right now.”
The competition certainly won’t get any easier. Once the Redbirds conclude their regular-season schedule, they are cast in the Springfield Sectional. Alton is seeded seventh in an 11-team subsectional group and plays Chatham Glenwood on Monday, Oct. 26, in Granite City. The winner gets top-seeded O’Fallon there Oct. 27.
“We’re just focusing on one goal — one set at a time,” Redbirds’ coach Stacey Ferguson said. “We understand the big picture and we need to play with confidence and determination.”
She noted, “Confidence is a fragile thing and I think this group knows what it’s up against the rest of the season. We have to play hard and smart. We have good hitting, so it’s going to come down to our passing and defense.”
Ferguson has the Redbirds pointed in the right direction. They have reached the 20-win circle three times in the last four seasons. And under her direction, the Redbirds have won more than 100 matches the past five seasons.
Thus, they have averaged 20 victories per year since 2010. They won 19 matches in both 2010 and 2011, 21 in 2012, 16 in 2013 and a school-record 25 last fall.
“I have a lot of respect for Stacey Ferguson and their program,” Granite City coach Ginger Harrison said after the Birds beat the Warriors on Oct. 6.
Green and Kailin Haug serve as the team leaders and that’s to be expected. They are the only seniors on the 10-player squad. Green has more than 200 kills this season and Haug has supplied consistent all-around play.
Juniors Kassie Funke, Annie Evans and Fisher have contributed quality play. Funke is the Redbirds’ libero and a sharp server. Evans, a middle hitter, might have made the most progress of any performer.
“She has stepped up her game and improved both on offense and defense,” Ferguson said of Evans.
Schmidt, one of three sophomores — along with Gwen Hunter and Josie Hagen — has emerged as the Redbirds’ most pleasant surprise. The setter had to take over for the graduated Jordan Nolan, the AdVantage News Player of the Year, and has adjusted to playing a new position.
“Sydney wasn’t a setter before this year, but she is playing well and getting smarter every night,” Ferguson said.
Schmidt’s ability to slide into the setter spot has made it easier for the Redbirds to enjoy a smooth transition this season. Ferguson wasn’t sure what to expect after AHS’ memorable 2014 run.
“When we went into this season, we knew we had some strong and quality players returning,” Ferguson said. “We talked about our goals and one of them wasn’t about focusing on our record, but developing as a team.
“We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but we have found a way to fight back and win.”
The quest continues, Ferguson said. It’s one step at a time.
“We’re still trying to develop into the team that we want to be and where we need to go with our program,” she said. “We’ve toughened our schedule a little bit and that has helped us.”
She pointed out, “One of our goals is to improve in the conference. We’d like to finish in the top half of it. We’d like to consistently compete in it.”
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