Photo by Bill Roseberry
The Alton Redbirds talk courtside at AHS during the Alton Invitational earlier in the season. Tuesday, Alton set a new program record for wins as its stellar season continues.
Volleyball coach Stacey Ferguson foresaw more than a fistful of success within the grasp of the Alton Redbirds this season.
They’ve validated her vision. The Birds have gripped triumphs tightly and refused to let go of their winning ways during a record-setting campaign.
“I expected us to be better than last year and do some good things,” said Ferguson, who earlier this season recorded her 100th career win. “But what we have done was definitely not expected because we have a tough schedule.”
The Redbirds are doing just fine. Alton defeated Southwestern Conference rival Granite City on Tuesday night by the score of 25-8, 25-15 for a school-record 25th win. The 25-3-1 Redbirds still have some key SWC dates remaining and additional goals to accomplish. They are 3-1 in the SWC.
They welcome O’Fallon (Oct. 14), are at Edwardsville (Oct. 16) and play host to Belleville West (Oct. 23). The Panthers, Tigers and Maroons figure to be their chief opponents in a projected competitive conference chase.
“It’s a goal-oriented group and we have some more goals we want to accomplish,” Ferguson said. “We have a lot of senior leadership and good team chemistry.”’
Alton has taken a major step in pushing its program forward. The Birds went 24-9 under coach Dan Carter during the 2008-09 season, but this season’s team has exceeded that success.
Curiously, it’s just the fourth time in the 38-year history of the program that the Redbirds have registered 20 or more wins. They won 20 times in 1998 and were 21-14 two years ago. AHS went 16-18 last season. Thus, the Birds have done a quick turnabout.
“Everybody has gotten better individually and so has the team,” Ferguson said. “We’re definitely not a one-person team. Everybody is producing.”
Jordan Nolan, a senior setter, serves as the Redbirds’ catalyst. She played a vital role in the Redbirds winning both of their own tournaments.
“She’s a smart player and an even-tempered one,” Ferguson said
The Birds only losses thus far have been to Calhoun in Roxana tournament, Ladue in the Ritenour tourney and Collinsville in a league match. At one point, they secured 16 consecutive wins. That three-week-plus unbeaten stretch enhanced the team’s confidence and strengthened their continuity, Ferguson said.
“You can see them more prepared each night,” she added. “They have confidence in themselves and there’s lots of determination and excitement. You don’t sense any self-doubt from them. They have resiliency and find a way to overcome adversity and battle back from it.
“The players understand that everybody needs to work together and be on the same page.”
Megan Paulda, Rachel Cauley, Kailin Haug, Savannah Fisher and Jada Green have donated significantly to the serving success. Paulda and Cauley are seniors, while Haug and Green are juniors. Fisher is a sophomore.
“Jada is more comfortable and Rachel is a strong hitter,” Ferguson said.
Green, Paulda and Cauley are the leaders in kills, with Cauley and Fisher supplying steady blocking. Fisher, Paulda, plus Rachel and junior Olivia Cauley have added prime defensive work.
Rachel Bridges, Shannon Farrell and Alexis Shaw also have contributed to the cause. Bridges and Farrell are seniors. Shaw is a junior.
Once the regular season concludes, the Redbirds join Edwardsville, Granite City, Springfield and Quincy in the power-packed Tigers’ 4A Regional. The EHS Regional champion joins regional winners from Belleville East, Moline and Normal West in the Normal Community Sectional. Normal West has the super-sectional.