It was the game everyone wanted to see in the finals of Saturday’s Vandalia Tournament, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
County rivals Vandalia and South Central clashed in the championship game, with the Lady Vandals maintaining a 13-0 record by earning a 26-24, 25-22 victory in a rematch of a game from earlier this month to win their first-ever Vandalia Tournament.
“Exactly the result that we wanted,” said coach Allison Smith.
The Lady Vandals defeated South Central in the final game of pool play at the Altamont Tournament on Sept. 1, needing three sets to come away with that 26-28, 25-19, 17-15, victory.
But by winning Saturday’s rematch, Vandalia earned its second tournament championship of the season.
“I knew I was going to have a good team, but I never pictured being undefeated with two championships already,” Smith said. “That says a lot about these girls’ eagerness to be successful.”
Senior RaeChelle Leiken, who was second on the team in kills during the tournament, with 27, said that the team expects to win tough games like the one against the Lady Cougars.
“This team is amazing,” Leiken said. “We expect it, but it’s still very exciting.”
Senior Austyn Krueger led the Lady Vandals with 28 kills over the four games, and senior Sierah Ruffner was close behind with 25.
Smith said it was Ruffner’s best overall day of the season, and with 10 kills against Carlyle and eight against South Central, she had two of her three best single-game outputs of the season.
“She did a fantastic job of coming out with key kills and blocks when we needed them,” Smith said.
Many of those came against South Central, with Ruffner pounding a kill to break 19-19 tie in the first set and to later on re-tie the set at 23-23.
In the second set, she tied the game at 17-17 with a kill, and assisted on a block to tie the game at 19-19. Both of those points came after the Lady Cougars stormed back from a 13-3 deficit.
Relaxing after securing a big lead early in a set has happened more than once to Vandalia this season, but they have not yet lost a match because of it. Smith said that it’s an area for the team to improve in.
“We got lax like we always do,” she said. “That always come back to bite us, but we came out of it.
“We are on a pedestal, and it is our choice to stay up here or fall off, so we have to keep doing the little things every day.”
The first set against South Central was one of the most thrilling sets of the year, as the score was tied 16 times and the teams combined for 23 kills. Neither team led by more than two points, and there was only a two-point margin five times.
Included in the set was Leiken’s 100th kill of the season, which she secured to give the Lady Vandals a 15-13 lead.
The set was tied at points 21-24, but back-to-back errors by the Lady Cougars gave Vandalia the set win.
After building up the second-set lead, South Central used an 11-1 run to tie the set at 14-14, and it would remain close from there, with neither team leading by more than two points until Krueger posted the final kill.
“It was great,” said senior setter Gabby McNutt. “We haven’t peaked yet, but we are all almost playing to our best abilities.”
In pool play, the Lady Vandals defeated Carlyle, 25-21, 26-24, to advance to the finals. Before that, East Alton-Wood River was defeated, 25-16, 25-18, and Brownstown went down, 25-11, 25-13.
Against EAWR, McNutt recorded her 100th kill assist of the season, setting to Leiken on a kill that gave Vandalia a 10-3 lead in the second set.
Vandalia 26, South Central 24
Vandalia 25, South Central 22
Kills: Leiken, 9; Ruffner, 8; Krueger, 5; Megan Godoyo, 2; Shelby Foster, 1.
Aces: Abby Dugan, 3; Leiken, 2; Krueger, 1; McNutt, 1.
Assists: McNutt, 15; Jessica Sullens, 6; Foster, 1; Leiken, 1; Ruffner, 1.
Blocks: Ruffner, 2; Godoyo, ½; Sullens, ½.
Vandalia 25, Carlyle 21
Vandalia 26, Carlyle 24
Kills: Ruffner, 10; Krueger, 8; Godoyo, 4; Leiken, 3; Foster, 2; McNutt, 1.
Aces: Leiken, 3; Dugan, 2; Godoyo, 2; Ally Sasse, 1.
Assists: Sullens, 10; McNutt, 9; Foster, 2; Ruffner, 1.
Blocks: Ruffner, 1; Foster, ½; Sullens, ½.
Vandalia 25, EAWR 16
Vandalia 25, EAWR 18
Kills: Krueger, 8; Leiken, 7; Godoyo, 4; Ruffner, 4; Foster, 1.
Aces: Foster, 3; Godoyo, 2; Leiken, 2; Dugan, 1; Krueger, 1; McNutt, 1; Ruffner, 1.
Assists: McNutt, 10; Sullens, 10.
Vandalia 25, Brownstown 11
Vandalia 25, Brownstown 13
Kills: Leiken, 8; Krueger, 7; Ruffner, 3; Foster, 1; Godoyo 1.
Aces: Foster, 2; Leiken, 2; Kadi Metzger, 2; Godoyo, 1; Krueger, 1; McNutt, 1.
Assists: McNutt, 9; Sullens, 5; Foster, 1; Godoyo, 1.
Blocks: Ruffner, 2.