Sabers sweep Spartans

Sabers sweep Spartans

ST. JOSEPH — This was the St. Thomas More volleyball team that played to its potential. Kills from future Division I hitters were thrown down with ferocity over the St. Joseph-Ogden block, sets were on point, serves dropped in at precise points for aces, and balls that looked destined for the floor were swept up by Sabers defenders.

En route to a 25-15, 25-12 win against the defending state runner-up on Thursday, St. Thomas More showed off its pure talent and athleticism.

"We just played well, plain and simple," coach Stan Bergman said. "I just thought we played well on both sides. Offensively, defensively, I thought we kept them out of system as much as we could, but I just thought we played well."

St. Thomas More lost twice in the two weeks after Mica Allison's return from the U18 world championships early this season as the senior setter settled back in to the pace of high school volleyball. Since its loss to Maroa-Forsyth on Sept. 9, the Sabers (16-2) have reeled off nine straight wins and dropped just two sets.

"It was a little bit (difficult) from going overseas and playing with some really good girls (to playing high school volleyball)," Allison said. "It was a different level of play obviously. But I think we're getting the hang of it."

Allison threw down eight kills and racked up 10 assists in a match the Sabers controlled throughout. Lucy Lux-Rulon tallied seven kills and Brianna Hopper and Haley Elam combined for seven of their team's nine aces.

Abbi Burnett tallied four kills and three digs for the Spartans (9-3), but St. Thomas More's skill and giant front line were too much for St. Joseph-Ogden. With a team that lost several key players from last year's state finalist, though, coach Abby McDonald is OK with a few bumps in the road as long as her team arrives at the correct destination.

After all, a season ago an inexperienced group took its lumps early.

"They've got the size; they've got more weapons," McDonald said. "We weren't able to put much together. But just like last season, the goal is to be ready when we need to be ready and to be focused on getting better every time we take the court. We learned a lot from tonight."

The Sabers know it takes more than talent to make a deep postseason foray. Virtually the same group seemed primed to make a state run a year ago only to be thwarted by a three-set loss to St. Joseph-Ogden in the sectional semifinals.

"It was the farthest we've gone in a long time, but we know that we could have gone farther," Lux-Rulon said. "We thought we had what it took to make it and (our talent) would get us there."

This year, though, the Sabers are clicking. And on Thursday against their conference rival, they showed what is possible.

"This caliber is kind of the ultimate goal that we're after," Bergman said. "I think they're hoping to repeat what St. Joe's nice senior class has done the last few years and make a deep postseason run. But you never know. God's in charge, and we could come out flat in regionals and be done, or we could accomplish something special like St. Joe did last year."