EDWARDSVILLE – Since Jami Parker took over head coaching duties in 2002, the Edwardsville volleyball team has been successful.
The Tigers have won over 370 matches, captured nine regional titles and four sectional championships and had a third-place finish in the Class 4A state tournament in 2010.
With four returning all-Southwestern Conference performers and two seniors, Edwardsville will look to finish with another outstanding season in Parker’s 15th year as coach. After losing in three games to the St. Joseph’s Academy Angels on Wednesday at home, the Tigers are 6-1.
“I think we’re going to go far,” Edwardsville senior Shelby Saye said. “We’re younger and I think our minds are going to keep growing and we’re going to get better in every game we play.”
The Angels, who have won eight state championships in Missouri, improved to 5-0 with the 25-22, 24-26, 25-21 win over Edwardsville. After the game, the Tigers got a round of applause from their fans.
“We played well tonight as a group,” Saye said. “I thought we looked good, but I know for a fact that we could have played harder and we could have won.”
The Tigers were coming off their first Tiger Classic championship in nine years on Saturday.
“We had a really big confidence booster,” Edwardsville senior Nicki Meyer said. “We won the tournament for the first time in nine years. There was some good competition in that tournament to get us ready for this game (against St. Joseph’s).”
Now, Edwardsville is looking to win another tournament this weekend. The Tigers will play in the Nike Classic in Effingham on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s another huge tournament for us,” Parker said. “We have a lot of teams in the state of Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky and from all over. That’s going to be a huge test for us to get back in and play another big tournament.”
Edwardsville returned juniors Rachel Pranger, Megan Woll, Kate Martin and Rachel Verdun this fall. All of them earned all-conference honors last fall.
Saye and Meyer are the only seniors on the team.
“It’s a young squad, but it’s an experienced squad,” Parker said. “Five of those girls have been starting for several years. It’s a nice mix.”
Before Wednesday, the Tigers won their first six matches in two games, five of them were at the Tiger Classic last weekend. Edwardsville began its season on Aug. 26 with a two-game win over Springfield Southeast.
“I’m really pleased with where we’re at,” said Parker, whose team finished 25-11 last year. “The girls are doing what we’re asking them to do. The game tonight didn’t have to go our way, but that’s a great team across the net from us, so we’re going to keep working and keep improving on what we have.”
Parker said she was happy that her team got to play three games with the Angels on Wednesday. A year ago, Edwardsville scored a combined 14 points in its two-game loss at St. Joseph’s Academy. The Angels won 25-7, 25-7 in the 2015 meeting.
“It was a great game,” Parker said. “There were two really good teams and two of the top teams in the area on the floor.”
Meyer finished with 12 service points. With the second game tied at 15-15, Meyer served three straight points to give the Tigers an 18-15 lead. With the Tigers leading 25-24, Meyer served the game point to send the match to a third game.
Martin and Pranger each served five points.
“The whole team did a nice job of serving in this game,” Meyer said.
In the third game, the Tigers led 7-4 before the Angels came back to take an 11-9 lead, forcing Parker to call a timeout. Later, St. Joseph’s went on a 3-0 run to take a 14-11 lead, forcing parker to call another timeout. The Angels never trailed the rest of the way.
“We just got a little out of system for a while and we weren’t hitting the ball and we weren’t attacking for about five or six points,” Parker said. “They had a couple of nice blocks during that run and we kind of pulled up a little bit and we weren’t as aggressive as we would have like to have been. But I was proud of the girls. They resettled and starting swinging and set the serve receive back in and they played ball.”
Martin finished with 11 kills and four blocks, Pranger had nine kills and 19 digs, Woll finished with 12 digs, Verdun had 20 digs and sophomore Corrine Timmermann had five blocks.