STM volleyball rebounds, collects third place at state

STM volleyball rebounds, collects third place at state

NORMAL — Perhaps Stan Bergman’s athletes hadn’t quite moved beyond their most recent outing when they stepped onto the Redbird Arena hardwood on Saturday afternoon.

St. Thomas More volleyball would not be a back-to-back state champion. Pleasant Plains extinguished that dream the day prior.

Still, the opportunity existed for the Sabers to be just one of two squads in Class 2A to end the 2018 campaign with a victory.

“The expectation once we got (to state) was, I think, we could win this,” Bergman said. “It kind of took 24 hours plus one set to get over the fact we weren’t in the championship.”

After that one game, STM snapped back to its frequent reality.

Junior Allie Trame smashed 17 kills as the Sabers took down Nashville 19-25, 25-15, 25-16 in the third-place tilt and capped yet another impressive year.

Freshman setter Caroline Kerr posted 31 assists as STM (37-5) slowly but surely regained the typically dominant pass control that evaded it in key moments during Friday’s semifinal, as well as in Saturday’s first set versus the Hornets (32-10).

Proof of improvement was in the numbers. The Sabers’ attack percentage improved from .079 in the opening stanza to a cumulative .231 over the next two games.

“Had we passed (Friday) like we did (Saturday),” Bergman said, “we could’ve been sitting her with the number one or two trophy.”

Bergman felt, in addition to the disappointment of falling short Friday, that Nashville’s lopsided loss to Galena in the other semifinal messed with his girls’ minds.

The Hornets dropped that match 25-14, 25-2. And STM wasn’t making things easy on them early Saturday, jumping out to a 14-8 edge.

“All the sudden, I think the scores (Friday) probably settled with them,” Bergman said. “As in, ‘Oh, well, this is what they got beat by (Friday), so this should be a piece of cake.’

“I reminded them, ‘Ladies, this team made it to the final four also.’”

Senior Jenna Harris piled up three kills for Nashville over the first set’s last 18 points, during which the Sabers committed 10 errors.

But STM senior libero Haley Elam, as she’s keen to do, picked up her teammates in her last prep match.

Her outwardly positive attitude, combined with an improvement in passing, paid dividends the rest of the way, according to Bergman. Elam finished with 19 digs, backed by 10 from freshman Anna McClure.

Speaking of McClure, Bergman felt she and Kerr fared well in their first foray into the unique atmosphere that is the state tournament.

“They were mature,” Bergman said. “The two of them on this stage, obviously, is a tribute to their understanding of the game ... and how much time they take to actually get better.”

It’s a great thing for Bergman to see, especially since STM will bounce up to Class 3A next season.

This is because of the IHSA’s success factor, which forces teams that compete in the final four of a sport twice in four years to climb one class.

Bergman wasn’t pondering that after Saturday’s happenings. Instead, his focus was on the most successful stretch in Sabers volleyball history.

“It’s literally amazing,” he said. “I can’t be more proud of where the program came from, where it is now. It just shows the commitment the kids have to wanting to excel and be considered one of the best.”