BEL-NOR – The defending Class 4 state volleyball champion St. Joseph’s Academy Angels looked every bit like the best team in the land Tuesday evening, when it swept away a two sets to none victory over host Incarnate Word Academy in front of a raucous crowd of several hundreds fans at the IWA’s Blackshear Family Arena.
The Angels, who trailed during the early stages of the match, took control midway through the first set, and never really looked back, earning a 25-16, 25-18 win over the Red Knights.
“(We were) a little sluggish,” St. Joe’s head coach Karen Davis said. “Sometimes, you just don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it was the crowd, or just the long weekend.”
Whatever the problem was initially for the Angels, the Red Knights certainly took advantage, and jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead, thanks in part, to three early kills by IWA senior Kristen Besselsen.
Unfortunately for the Red Knights though, as quickly as they snagged the lead, the Angels snatched it right back by winning seven of the next nine points, to grab their first lead at 9-8.
“I think we (just) had to get into it a little bit,” St. Joe’s outside hitter Carly Ochs said. “We started out slow, and then we got a kill, and it got everyone pumped up.”
Ochs, who led all attackers with 11 kills on Tuesday, delivered two thunderous shots on back-to-back plays to give the Angels a 16-12 edge, then added two more bombs near the end of the set that helped finish IWA off in the first game.
“Carly was the star of the game,” Davis said. “She was awesome.”
In the second set, Ochs and hitting compadres Elise Ames and Natalie Gower helped St. Joe’s build its own 6-2 bulge at the start, before IWA rallied behind Besselsen to tie the score at 8.
The Red Knights would eventually take slim advantages at 13-12, 14-13, 16-15, and 17-16, before St. Joe’s would close the match out with a 9-1 run, which was capped off by a final Ochs kill, and a brilliant block at the net by Angels freshman Hannah Western.
“It is such an advantage,” Davis said, of St. Joe’s lineup featuring so many versatile and aggressive players. “It really helps with that consistency.”
St. Joe’s consistency will get another huge test tonight, when the Angels (3-0) will be back in action with a home match against Edwardsville (IL) High, which came into the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the area this year.
IWA (0-1) will also be in action tonight with a road match against Parkway South, which is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m.