Breese Journal staff report

VBKnightsWood River champs — Pictured is the 2019 Class 2A Wood River Regional champion Mater Dei Lady Knights after they blew away Columbia last Thursday and Roxana last Tuesday. The Lady Knights then defeated Freeburg in the Wesclin Sectional semifinal on Monday. They played rival Central on Wednesday for the sectional title. (Photo by Bruce Hixon)    If volleyball teams needed any reminder why Mater Dei received the No. 1 seed in Sub-Sectional A of the Wesclin Sectional, they got that reinforcement with the domination the Lady Knights used to claim the championship of the Class 2A Wood River Regional last week. 
    It marked the seventh regional title in nine seasons for Lady Knights coach Chad Rakers since he took over the volleyball program’s reins from his father, Fred Rakers, prior to the start of the 2011 season.
    Not only did Mater Dei win both of its contests at Wood River in straight sets, but the Lady Knights won each set by double digits. Mater Dei began its postseason path last Tuesday when it disposed of Roxana in the semifinal round. The Lady Knights completed their romp through the field at Wood River on Thursday when they rolled past Columbia in the championship match.
    The Lady Knights (28-9) then took down Freeburg in two games on Monday in the Class 2A Wesclin Sectional. Pinckneyville took down Central in the other semifinal to set up the championship on Wednesday at 6 p.m. with the winner moving on to Friday’s Vandalia Super-sectional to play the Salem Sectional champion.
    Mater Dei 28-25, Freeburg 26-13:  The Lady Knights avoided a scare in the first game on Monday in Trenton.
    Freeburg gave the Lady Knights everything they wanted as the game went back and forth throughout with 14 ties.
    Mater Dei took an early lead with two Freeburg errors and a block from junior Jessie Timmermann as they led 3-1.  Kills from Caroline Gagen got the game even at 3-3.

    Freeburg took advantage of some sloppy play by the Lady Knights who had five unforced errors which led to a FCHS lead at 13-9.  Lexie Smith had two kills in the run.
    Riley Kleber stopped the run for MD with a kill down the middle to spark a 5-0 run that gave MD a 14-13 lead behind two kills from Tori Mohesky.
    Neither team led by more than two points the rest of the way with Mater Dei eventually leading 23-21 after a pair of kills from Macie Beer.
    Freeburg tied it up with kills from Gagen and Smith before a service error gave MD the lead at 24-23.  Gagen and Mohesky exchanged kills before Gagen smacked another to tie it up at 25-25.
    “Everyone is going to give you their best game and what I was most proud of was how we handled it,” Mater Dei head coach Chad Rakers said. “We didn’t freak out, didn’t get down on ourselves. We hung in there and were handling the moment — not afraid of it.”
    A hitting error by Mohesky gave the Midgets game point at 26-25.  However, a hitting error from Freeburg and an ace from Kleber gave MD game points.  Myah Helmkamp came through with a kill down the left side to win it for Mater Dei.
    “Freeburg came out on fire,” added Rakers.  “We withstood their start and we really kept our composure through the second game.”
    The Lady Knights left no doubt in the second game running out to a 5-1 lead behind a kill and an ace from Timmermann and a block from Kleber.
    “I don’t know if Riley feels those big moments,” said Rakers.  “She just does her thing and plays the game.  It’s great to have athletes that just play in the moment.”
    Freeburg would never threaten from there as they did not register a service point until they were trailing 24-12.
    Timmermann was strong all around with three kills, four points, eight digs and 23 assists for Mater Dei.  Kleber also played well with four kills, five blocks and six points with two aces.
    Mohesky added five kills for MD while Helmkamp had eight.  Rylee Sudholt led the team with nine points.  Mater Dei outhit the Midgets 30-16.
    Freeburg got eight kills from Gagen and six from Smith as the rest of the team combined for two kills.  Freeburg ended the season with a 24-14 record.
    Mater Dei 25-25, Columbia 14-8:  Going into Thursday’s championship match Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers said his two biggest concerns with playing Columbia were finding ways to slow down Eagles setter Paige Becker, who collected her 1,000th career assist in last Tuesday’s regional semifinal round, and middle hitter Olivia Peterson. 
    It took a while for the Lady Knights to find a way to execute that game plan, but once they did there was no stopping Mater Dei on its way to a victory in Thursday’s Class 2A Wood River Regional championship match.
    The concerns Rakers had came to the forefront early in game one when Columbia (20-14) built an 8-5 advantage. During that stretch not only did Peterson have a pair of kills, but so did Avrie Barthel and Becker.
    “We were off our game a bit during those first few rotations and Columbia probably came out hungrier than we did,” said Rakers.
    The complexion of game one and perhaps the match changed on the ensuing rotation. Kenadi Barriger’s kill for a sideout brought the Lady Knights within two, while a nine-point run at the service line by Tori Mohesky that included four aces gave the Lady Knights a 15-8 advantage they would not relinquish.
    Three times the Lady Eagles got within six with the last occasion coming at 18-12, but a kill for a sideout by Mohesky followed by two service points by Rylee Sudholt boosted that lead to nine. Mater Dei eventually closed out the opener with a net violation against Columbia followed by a kill by Mohesky and a pair of service points by Riley Kleber.
    Game two began with deadlocks at 1-1 and 2-2 before Mater Dei took the lead for good on a missed serve by the Lady Eagles. The Lady Knights then took firm control when six points by Kleber boosted that lead to 9-2 with the aid of kills by Myah Helmkamp and Mohesky.
    Columbia got as close as 14-8, but never scored again. The Lady Knights reeled off the final 11 points with a sideout and 10 service points by Sudholt. That final run got a boost at the net with three kills from Kleber, two from Mohesky and one from Jessie Timmermann.
    “A big key for us was our servers. They did a good job of putting the ball in the back row and keeping Columbia off balance,” said Rakers.
    Sudholt finished with 13 points to lead the Lady Knights’ service attack, while Mohesky had 11 points and four aces. Kleber posted nine points and one ace. Meanwhile Mohesky led a balanced attack at the net for Mater Dei with five kills. Helmkamp had four kills, while Timmermann had three kills and a tip. Kleber also posted three kills.
    “We came into this season without a lot of experience. Our seniors, Claire Tonnies, Gabby Jamruk and Rylee Sudholt, don’t play six rotations. They play role spots, but they’re leaders regardless and with them it’s all about the team. They’ve been through a lot more than our other girls,” said Rakers. “Early on we had to test the waters a bit. As we move forward we need to keep cleaning up our attack and working on our communication. You can never stop working on becoming a great communicator on the floor.”
    Mater Dei 25-25, Roxana 11-11:  The Lady Knights made quick work of Roxana in last Tuesday’s regional semifinal round as they disposed of the Lady Shells in two games.
    Three Mater Dei players accounted for 28 of the Lady Knights’ 33 service points as Riley Kleber led the way with 11 points and an ace. Jessie Timmermann had nine points and three aces, while Rylee Sudholt had eight points and two aces. Tori Mohesky led the way for Mater Dei at the net with nine kills, while Kleber had six kills and a block. Kenadi Barriger had three kills and three blocks. Myah Helmkamp also had three kills to go along with two blocks.
    Roxana finished its season with a 21-12 record.

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