EDWARDSVILLE – A record-setting volleyball season ended too abruptly for the Alton Redbirds on Tuesday night.
Springfield made sure of Alton's quick exit by bouncing the Birds, 25-9, 25-11 in a semifinal match of the Class 4A Edwardsville Regional. The 30-4 Senators play 20-16 Edwardsville at 6 p.m. Thursday in Lucco-Jackson Gym for the regional title.
The Tigers eliminated top-seeded Quincy in the first semifinal. The Blue Devils won the opening game, 25-20, before the Tigers responded with wins of 25-19 and 25-21.
Alton, closing at 25-8-1 and finishing with the most wins in program history, couldn’t get any traction going against Springfield. The Redbirds, concluding the season with five consecutive defeats, fell behind 11-2 in the first game. Then Springfield went on a 15-point binge the second game after Alton scored the first point.
“They (Senators) are very strong offensively at the net and we didn’t play as a team tonight,” AHS coach Stacey Ferguson said. “They played with a sense of urgency and they worked as a unit.
“We have to match that level.”
Most of the time, the Redbirds tried to dig themselves out of deep holes. They trailed 7-1, 11-2, 16-4 and 21-7 in the opener. Then sophomore Savannah Fischer gave them a shot of hope in the second game.
She served an ace on the first point. However, the Senators took charge after that, building a 15-1 advantage and shooting ahead 20-4. The Redbirds responded with seven points, though it proved to be too little, too late.
“We tried to attack everything – all the time,” Springfield coach Meghan Withers said. “We really put up some big blocks, too. We have the feeling that we are peaking now and playing our best volleyball of the season.”
Courtney Pence paced Springfield with seven kills, two aces and a couple of blocks. Teammate Mady McCarty provided eight kills, while Carrie Rolf and Kierra Weir teamed for seven kills. That's 22 kills figuring into the Senators' 50 points.
Jada Green supplied three kills, best for the Redbirds. Rachel Cauley and Fisher both had two kills and Fisher registered an ace.
Yet the numbers favored the Senators and they turned it into a landslide victory.
“They were very good,” Ferguson said. “The only disappointment on my part was that we didn’t step up big when we had to do it. We have played better. We were flat from the beginning and had zero communication.”
She will say goodbye to five seniors: Megan Paulda, Jordan Nolan, Rachel Bridges, Shannon Farrell and Rachel Cauley. Kailin Haug, Olivia Cauley, Green and Fisher will serve as the chief returnees for the 2015 season.
“Right now, it’s hard to celebrate what we did this season,” Ferguson said Tuesday night. “Those last five losses, each took a little something away from us. But in the end, I’m very proud of the way we played all season.”
Edwardsville, meanwhile, will strive for its seventh successive regional championship Thursday. The Tigers are seeded fourth in the five-team regional. Nevertheless, second-seeded Springfield knows Edwardsville could be a dangerous foe, particularly playing at home.
“I feel like they shouldn’t have been a fourth seed,” Withers said. “I’m impressed with the way they play. We will have to bring our ‘A’ game against them.”