HERRIN — Outnumbered by schools with enrollments easily topping 200 students and beyond, the mighty volleyball Cardinals of Trinity Lutheran-Stewardson, enrollment 45, showed their larger opponents why that number means very little this past Saturday.
The Cardinals entered the Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Assocation Class “S” state tournament with a 21-0 record, and hurdled a pair of bigger schools in their path to advance all the way to the state championship match against Germantown.
Trinity Lutheran beat Waltonville 25-13, 25-21 in the quarterfinals, and took down Bartelso 25-13, 25-18 to advance to the state title.
“I’m a very proud coach,” Cardinals’ leader Ronda Schlechte said. “To play with these big teams and win or stay with them is a huge accomplishment.”
In the championship, the Cardinals looked to take control early against Germantown, but narrowly fell in the opening set 26-24. Trinity Lutheran suffered a 25-16 setback in the second, marking the end to a phenomenal season and 23-1 final record.
This spring’s success should come as little surprise, with Schlechte leading the Cardinals to a 16-2 record in the fall, with both losses coming to a difficult Peoria Christian squad. Between the fall and spring seasons, Trinity Lutheran owned a mind-blowing 39-3 resume.
“(The) girls really played hard today,” a proud Schlechte said, “beating teams who were so much bigger and older. They always play their hearts out.”