RYAN CZACHORSKI Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — ST. ELMO — Only one team stood between the Altamont Indians and a berth in the Class 2A St. Elmo Regional final.
But for Indians coach Tim Dooling, it was a very frightening sight seeing the St. Elmo/Brownstown Eagles line up across from his squad.
Either his players didn’t share his fear or they quickly overcame it, as Altamont rolled past St. Elmo 25-10, 25-13 to continue its season Tuesday night.
“(The Eagles) scare me to death, they do, because they play so hard,” Dooling said. “We just had a night where we served really well, that won’t happen every night.”
When the serve game was on as Dooing said, the Indians were racking up 10 aces, and when the serves weren’t falling, they were putting St. Elmo out of position for Altamont to take advantage.
It was a step back from when the two teams met three weeks ago, when the game went to the wire with a 30-28 final set win for Altamont.
“Their top spin serves were very aggressive tonight, and we had problems with serve/receive,” said St. Elmo/Brownstown coach Elise Asher. “The kids on the other side of the net are too tall and long and strong. They played nearly flawless.
“On our best night, we give them a run for their money. My hat’s off to Altamont.”
St. Elmo led early, but Altamont came back and took a 5-3 lead thanks to two Lauren White aces.
The Altamont lead and a heavy dose of White would be a steady theme throughout the game, as White was a force on the service line and at the net both offensively and defensively.
She finished with five kills, three aces, three digs and two blocks, and Dooling said her play was a rallying point for the Indians.
“She played very well, she was very active,” he said. “We need her to do that, she helps the whole defense and her play motivates the team.
The Eagles cut the first-set lead to 7-6, but were outscored 18-4 down the rest of the set and fell behind.
Things continued that way in the second set as Altamont jumped out to a 9-1 lead behind three Deidre Ledbetter aces.
St. Elmo hung around, keeping the lead near seven points, and had a long rally at 17-10 that was a bit deflating. The ball went back and forth with the Eagles playing stout defense, but a kill attempt was blocked by White.
The Eagles only scored three more points from there.
“Had we won that, the emotion and the face of the game might have changed momentarily, but I don’t think it would have changed the outcome,” Asher said.
Gabi Moore lead the Eagles with four kills, while Bethany Oberlink had three. Erica Behl had a team-high five assists, and Danie Austin led the way the team’s two aces.
Moore’s four digs also topped the team, and Courtney Howard was the only other player with more than one, registering two.
The loss ends St. Elmo’s season at 20-16 in the first year of the SE/B co-op, but finished strong.
“We did struggle on and off throughout,” Asher said. “We swept (the EIC) this year. The conference was down a bit, but it did a lot for our psyche to string some wins together and have confidence in ourselves.”
Kopplin tied with White for the team lead in kills with five, while Gabby Alwardt had three. Ledbetter and Macy Wendling each had two aces, while Wendling added 10 assists. Ledbetter topped the team with four digs, while White and Audrey Winters each had three.
Now, Altamont (26-7) advances to the regional final and will take on Metro East Lutheran at 6 p.m. Thursday. Metro East downed Flora 25-14, 25-19 Tuesday.
“You have to bring everything you have, and you go with what works,” Dooling said.
St. Elmo/Brownstown 10 13
Altamont 25 25
SE/B: Moore (4 kills, 4 digs); Oberlink (3 kills, 1 digs); Howard (2 kills, 1 assist, 2 digs); Austin (2 aces); Kroll (1 kill, 2 assists); Bone (1 kill, 1 dig); Behl (5 assists, 1 dig); Walk (2 assists, 1 dig); Maxey (1 dig)
Altamont: Kopplin (5 kills, 1 ace); White (5 kills, 3 aces, 3 digs, 2 blocks); Alwardt (3 kills, 1 ace, 1 block); Laatsch (1 kill, 1 assists, 1 block); Ledbetter (2 aces, 4 digs, 1 block); Wendling (2 aces, 10 assists, 1 dig); Winters (1 ace, 3 digs); M. Ohnesorge (2 digs)