Stew-Stras Set For Class 1A State Volleyball Tournament

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Published on November 14 2013 1:14 pm
Written by Millie Lange

NOTE: You'll be able to watch the games live online, via IHSA TV, at this link.

Ticket information for the Lady Comets' games is located here.

Stewardson-Strasburg High School volleyball coach Ronda Schlechte admits she was envious last year when Tri-County beat her team. That was the fuel that fired up this season’s team and the Comets are now headed to the Class 1A State Tournament Friday and Saturday at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena in Normal.

“The whole goal of this season has been to get to the post season,” said Schlechte. “When we got beat by Tri-County last year in sectionals I was very envious of their team. They were very quick and powerful and I wanted that team.

“I had to sell the girls the idea that they are that good and have them commit to the time and work this summer to be able to do something this season. They did. They committed and we put in a sports enhancement program that Lisa Peifer, the Shelbyville High School head coach and the director for the Rapid Fire Club that a lot of the girls play for, suggested. She came in to help us with conditioning this summer.

“We came out strong this summer with the tournaments and that gave the girls a really big confidence boost that they could do it this year. We played up and down the last couple of years but this year has been the most consistent. We’ve had games where we haven’t played as well but as the season progressed we’ve gotten consistent.”

And that consistency has paid off with the Comets trip to state for the first time since the 1995-96 season.

Schlechte, in her third year as head of the program, has her team heading to state with a 27-12 record. The coach commented on her starting unit and what each member of the team means to the program.

“Kendall Knop is probably my most consistent hitter. She doesn’t have a lot of heighth but she can work around big blocks. She has a nice high vertical where she can put the ball down. She’s quick and very court smart. She has a really nice topspin jump serve that gets us a lot of points.

“Brittani Tabbert is our other outside, a senior. She does the bulk of our hitting also. She’s really gotten more consistent recently and had some good games. She is also a power hitter. Both girls can hit the ball across court and that helps us around blocks.

“Lindsey  Burton, a senior, got hurt back in September. She is just now starting to see a little bit of court time. She’s coming off a severe high ankle sprain. I wish we had a few more weeks to get her to play more. She’s just started coming back to practices so she’s very limited at what she can do still. I have every intention of getting her in games.

“Morgan Stremming is our middle and she’s a senior. She’s also not real tall but has a nice vertical.  She slows a lot of balls down by getting her hands on it.

“Sarah Lock is a our libero and is a senior. She’s very quick. At our regionals she served 17 consecutive points and that was a highlight this season.

“Clara Kaufman is a sophomore. She has replaced Lindsey in the middle position. She played a little bit of varsity last year but has stepped up and taken over this position. She is 6-foot. She is our top blocker and she is second with our aces.

“Bailey Quast is our senior setter. She’s also got a very nice vertical jump that helps us in the first row. Does a nice job of blocking. Her defense has improved a lot this season. She’s also one of our better servers. She did have surgery last year that took her out of most of the season and has worked her way back.

“Becca Schlechte is our freshman setter. She plays a lot like Kendall, very court smart. Does a great job at the net. She plays the ball without thinking too much and places it where it needs to go. Very quick and a good defense player.

“We also have Jill Conder and Olivia Gratz, both dress varsity. Jill is a setter and Olivia is an outside hitter. She can play rightside, middle and outside. In case of an injury she knows all the positions.”

The Comets will now face New Athens at 10:30 a.m. Friday in opening round play at state. The opening match will have Rockford Keith Country Day against Sciota West Prairie at 9 a.m. The winners advance to the state title match Saturday at 10:30 a.m. with the losers playing for third place at 9 a.m.

Coach Schlechte talked about her team’s strengths and what they’ll have to do to win at state.

“Probably our specialty would be our hitting. We do have a lot of strong hitters. Brittany, Kendall and Becca are the top hitters. Becca and Kendall have the highest attack percentage. I know when the ball gets to them they can put it down, whether a tip or hit.  

“We’ve been working hard on defense with getting quicker and reading the hitters a little bit better.

"I do not know a whole lot about New Athens. I’m not a coach that really worries about getting the information about another team. At this level everyone is good. You just have to go in, fight hard and do what we’ve done all season.”

Goals at state include just having some fun.

“Of course they like to have fun,” said Schlechte. “They’re a very fun team. Sometimes it takes a little bit to get down to business. But at the same time when I like them to play hard they can. It’s been exciting.

“Our seniors went to state as eighth-graders. Nice for them to see state again in their careers.

“I just want to thank the fans. We’ve had a very good fan following. The community has been very excited and supportive. As of Wednesday night, 50 have signed up for the fan bus. The girls enjoy having all  the fans. It helps keep them motivated to do better. But I hear we have a good fan base coming this weekend. That’s exciting.”