The St. Elmo volleyball team will be looking to claim its first regional title since 2003 next week on its home court.
And the Lady Eagles can enter postseason play with some added confidence, knowing it did something Saturday that even that 2003 team – considered the best in school history – failed to do.
After advancing to the Gold Flight of the National Trail Conference Tournament for the first time since 2004 Thursday by pulling out a 25-17, 18-25, 26-24 win over Neoga, the Lady Eagles (19-11) finished second in the tournament for the first time since 2002 Saturday, topping Stewardson-Strasburg, 25-12, 22-25, 25-18 before falling to eventual champion and host Effingham-St. Anthony, 25-9, 25-23.
‘I was very happy with the level of the kids’ play,’ said St. Elmo coach Elise Asher, whose team has won 12 of its last 14 matches following victories over Brownstown and Ramsey Monday in the Egyptian-Illini Conference Tournament. ‘They ready to play ball. It was a lot of fun to watch.’
The Lady Eagles put themselves in position to compete for an NTC title Thursday by getting some sweet revenge at home against Neoga.
The fourth-seeded Lady Indians edged St. Elmo in the teams’ regular-season meeting by pulling out a pair of games by the narrowest of margins, 26-24.
But the Lady Eagles turned the tables on Neoga Thursday.
Up 24-23 in the third game, the Lady Indians had an opportunity to serve for match point. They couldn’t capitalize, however, and St. Elmo responded by scoring three straight points to win a thriller.
‘It could have gone either way, but it fell for us,’ Asher said. ‘It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, and it got us into the gold flight.’
The Lady Eagles then beat second-seeded Stew-Stras for the second time in as many matches this season to open Gold Flight play.
The top-seeded Lady Bulldogs proved to be too tough, however.
After a lopsided loss in Game 1, St. Elmo bounced back strong, as the score was tied at 23-23 late. But St. Anthony avoided a winner-take-all third game by scoring the final two points on a Lady Eagles service error and a kill.
‘St. Anthony’s a tough team,’ Asher said. ‘I think we came out a little scared in the first game. But we regrouped and talked about doing the little things right, and we did.
‘We played a lot better in the second game and walked out of there with our heads high, knowing we can compete with the best teams in our conference.’
Amy Fulk led the Lady Eagles by combining for 19 kills in two Gold Flight matches, while Brooke Maxey had 20 digs on the night.
Britani Beasley added 26 assists and five aces.
OTHER ST. ELMO RESULTS
Thursday’s NTC Tournament
Pool Play Matches
In addition to avenging a regular-season loss to Neoga, the third-seeded Lady Eagles rolled past Cowden-Herrick on their home court, 25-16, 25-16.
Fulk had a monster night, hammering down 32 kills, to go along with 11 digs and four aces.
Maxey was a standout on offense and defense, finishing with 13 kills and 23 digs. Britani Beasley added 37 assists, while Megan Durbin had 13 kills.
Monday’s EIC Tournament
The Lady Eagles took two convincing steps toward their ninth EIC Tournament title in 11 years by rolling past Ramsey (25-4, 25-9) and Brownstown (25-10, 25-13) at home.
Fulk hammered down 22 kills on the evening, in addition to tying Timber Morrison for team-high honors with five aces.
Britani Beasley added 26 assists and three aces.
OTHER BROWNSTOWN RESULTS
Monday’s First Match
Brownstown def. B.City
The Bombers (7-19) opened up EIC Tournament play in style by getting revenge on the Lady Eagles, who topped Brownstown recently in NTC Tournament play.
Kathleen Rebbe and Shelby Pryor led the hitting attack, finishing the evening with 13 and 11 kills, respectively.
Marcia Schilling added 17 assists and three aces on the night. The Bombers played without Katy Satterthwaite and Brittany White.
Friday’s NTC Tournament
Bronze Flight Results
The Bombers lost in heartbreaking fashion in a marathon match against Beecher City, 23-25, 25-19, 31-29, before finishing 0-4 in tournament play with a 25-22, 25-11 loss to Cowden-Herrick.
Rebbe helped pick up the slack for the injured White, finishing with a team-high 18 kills, while Pryor had 17 kills and three aces.
Marcia Schilling chipped in 23 assists and three aces.
Pool Play Matches
St. Anthony (25-13, 25-13) and Altamont (25-11, 25-13) downed the Bombers via sweeps.
Jessica Behrends had three aces on the night, while White had five kills.