By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Staunton and Carlinville haven’t wasted any time in getting down to business at the start of the 2023 high school volleyball season.
Both county teams, each with high expectations, are out of the gates hot.
Staunton has already played five tournament matches and won them all, beating Metro-East Lutheran (2-1), Springfield Lutheran (2-0), Triad (2-0), LaSalle (2-1) and, most recently, Hartsburg-Emden (2-1) in a battle of unbeaten powerhouses.
The Bulldogs were ranked No. 19 in the first Illinois High School Association Class 2A poll of the year.
Staunton battles Columbia, Highland and O’Fallon at another tournament over Labor Day weekend.
The Carlinville Cavaliers went 2-0 last week, with both wins being decided via straight set.
Unlike in previous years, head coach Kaitie Hammann wanted to schedule a contest of some sort prior to the Aug. 24 home opener to better prepare the girls for Auburn. The move paid off.
Carlinville began the season on the road at Bunker Hill and dominated the Minutemaids, 25-9, 25-16.
The Cavaliers’ flourishing level of maturity kicked in when the tough Auburn Trojans came to town. Carlinville once again made a statement in set one, 25-10, but the task of sealing the deal wasn’t as simple this time. However, Hammann’s mindset of training the team with “come from behind” drills kept the CHS girls calm under pressure. Trailing the vast majority of set two and on the fringe of a rubber duel, Carlinville hit Auburn hard out of a late timeout and transformed a 24-22 deficit into a 26-24 clinching triumph.
“We hadn’t been truly tested yet but, when they needed to, every single girl we sent out there was ready for the challenge,” Hammann said after the Auburn game. “Obviously, we have things to work on in practice but I was very happy with this win. I really think we have truly grown as volleyball players since last year. The abilities have gone from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ They trust each other more. They are always having fun – smiling and laughing. I just feel like we are going to continue to play really good volleyball and continue to win when they have that much fun out there.”
Carlinville is back on its home hardwood Thurs., Aug. 31 against Williamsville and will travel to Carrollton Tues., Sept. 5.
North Mac held off Beardstown, 25-19, 24-26, 25-12, in its season opener Aug. 22. The Panthers are 1-0.
Gillespie, Mt. Olive and Southwestern are off to rocky starts. The Miners, Wildcats and Piasa Birds have all lost six of their first seven matches.