Sabers volleyball is jumping for joy

Sabers volleyball is jumping for joy

CHAMPAIGN — No gray hairs have popped up during St. Thomas More's volleyball run to the state tournament for coach Stan Bergman.

If they did, however, the recent blonde highlights he received would cover any flashes of gray.

The natural brunette made good on a preseason promise he granted after senior Brianna Hopper said he has to color his hair if the Sabers make the state tournament.

Well, here it is more than two months later and STM (37-3) will play Harvest Christian (29-11) at about 1:30 p.m. today in a Class 2A state semifinal match at Redbird Arena in Normal. Bergman lived up to the early August banter this past Sunday night, with the whole team watching and enjoying the moment.

"I said (at the time), 'It's not a bet,'" Bergman recalled, 'but if we can do that, it'll be fine.'"

The Sabers will vie for not only the program's first-ever state title this weekend, but the first-ever volleyball state title from a Champaign County high school since the state tournament started in 1974.

"I wouldn't say we're all stressed out," STM senior Lucy Lux-Rulon said. "We're taking this as a gift, and we really value how far we've gotten."

Talented players like Lux-Rulon, Auburn signee Mica Allison and Alabama commit Allie Trame, among others — plus the coaching acumen of Bergman — are clear reasons why STM is state bound.

But developing a rapport off the court has played a correlating role to the on-court success the Sabers have experienced this season.

"It's a really good group of girls," Allison said. "Most teams struggle with some drama being girls and kind of not getting along. With this team, we haven't had one problem this year. It's been a lot of fun playing with everyone."

Allison and Lux-Rulon are two of the five seniors on the STM roster, along with Hopper, an outside hitter, setter Hayes Murray and defensive specialist Olivia Nogle. The ability to mesh well with other key underclassmen on the team who play vital roles — like Trame, Nakaya Hughes and Haley Elam — has served STM well this season.

"We've learned a lot this season, from skill-wise to team bonding," Allison said. "We've realized that without the chemistry, things don't go as well as planned."

Lux-Rulon echoed those sentiments. All while realizing this weekend is not only her last chance to make more history for STM, but also her last time to play with this team.

"You know people watch, but you don't realize how many people actually follow it," Lux-Rulon said. "I was walking through the grocery store in Rantoul and saw at least four people, who I don't even know their name, and they'll go, 'I see you in the paper. Congratulations.'

"This is just a great group of girls that I get to spend it with. I wouldn't want to spend it with anyone else. They make it all 10 times more enjoyable."