STERLING — It took 21 games, but the Sterling volleyball team is finally back to full strength, and the Golden Warriors are proving why they are the defending IHSA Class 3A state champions.
After sweeping their way through their own invitational tournament on Saturday with five 2-0 wins, the Warriors were at their very best on Tuesday, whitewashing a very good Geneseo team 25-11, 25-14 in just 34 minutes at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
Geneseo falls to 19-5, 11-3 in the Western Big 6 and Sterling improves to 22-5, 10-2.
"It was good to have everyone back this past weekend," Sterling coach Dale Dykeman. "We got some work in with the entire team and that's what Sterling volleyball is."
Sterling was down by as many as four starters at one point and slowly rebuilt the team, finishing it off Saturday with the return of All-American Brook Borum, who was suspended for 20 games. All Borum did on Tuesday was power home 17 kills.
"It opened my eyes having to sit out with the suspension," Borum said. "Watching from the sideline is no fun, but you get a different perspective. The worst part was not getting to play games with my friends.
"It was hard having to practice but not play, but at least with the practices we were able to keep our systems ready for this past weekend. The bad part is we lost some games that I wish we could play over again with everyone."
So dominating were the Warriors, Geneseo only scored multiple points in a row just three times, twice scoring back-to-back points in Set 1 and a five-point run in Set 2.
"They got on a few runs — as Sterling can do — and we never got anything going," Geneseo coach Casey Komel said. "We never called a timeout because there was nothing I could say that our girls didn't know. I really thought we handled ourselves well, they just went full throttle from the start."
In the opening set it was Brook and her twin sister Bree Borum (six kills, 26 assists, four aces and a block) who dominated the play.
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"The difference with Brook in the lineup is her defense," Dykeman said. "What she does in serve receive and system defense is what makes us such a better team. Then, the presence on the kill makes it really tough to block because we can go either side at any point."
Sterling kept the pressure on in the second set and outside of the 5-0 midway through the set, the Warriors had a relatively easy night.
The Maple Leafs are finished with their Big 6 season and will sit back and wait to see if either Sterling (with games against United Township next Tuesday and Quincy next Saturday) and Moline (11-2 and still hosting Quincy on Thursday) both lose to get back into the top spot in the league.
"Yes and no," Komel said of whether she is rooting for some losses. "I would rather earn it than have it given to us. Would it be nice for a few losses? I guess, but we had our chance to do our job and we didn't."
Maroons stay in the hunt
Moline needed to win to stay a half-game ahead of Sterling, and the Maroons did exactly that, sweeping Galesburg 25-17, 25-22 at Thiel Gym on Tuesday.
"Before the game we talked about focusing on us and doing what we do," Moline coach Sarah Fetter said. "We earned a lot of our points and we got better, which is what we wanted to do."
Kamara Dickerson led balanced play at the net with nine kills. Ella Ramsay had seven and Nicole Ellis and Audrey Lamphier had four. Sophia Potter dished out 24 assists for the 16-5, 11-2 Maroons.
They'll get ready for Thursday, looking to clinch at least a share of the Big 6 title against a very good Quincy team.
"We can't worry about what Sterling is doing, we have to focus on beating Quincy,' Fetter said. "We will practice (today) and try to come out Thursday as a well-oiled machine."