GENESEO — The Sterling Golden Warriors dominated their Western Big 6 Conference rivals Geneseo and Quincy in Saturday's volleyball triangular hosted by the Lady Leafs at Geneseo High School.
Sterling, the defending Class 3A State Champions, showed that it intends to make a great deal of noise in its inaugural season in the expanded conference with straight set wins over both foes.
The Golden Warriors beat former Northern Illinois Big 12 rival Geneseo 25-22, 25-19 and handled Quincy 25-19, 25-13.
Geneseo, also expected to compete for the Big 6 crown, out-lasted Quincy 25-17, 20-25, 25-23.
“We had a great chance to win the first set against Sterling, and played well all around, especially on defense and by creating the touches we needed to set up shots at the net,” said Geneseo coach Casey Komel. “Early in the season, we need to focus on taking advantage of our scoring opportunities and learn from these matches.”
In that match, the Leafs held leads of 16-13 and 21-17 behind strong net play by Abigail Barickman, Cadence Talbert and Madeline Barickman, combined with the defense and positioning of Keeli Frerichs.
Sterling coach Dale Dykeman called a key timeout to re-focus his team, and all-state standout Bree Borum responded with multiple scoring kills at the net to help the Golden Eagles charge back and win the set.
The second set was back and forth, until Sterling embarked on two strong runs to lead 14-11, and 19-12. Again, Borum paced the Golden Warriors with help from exceptional hitting by Grace Egan and Kierra Collins. The Lady Leafs drew as close as 23-18, but two critical scores at the net from Borum proved pivotal.
“Geneseo passed and moved the ball extremely well, especially in the first set, and we had to adjust to their touches and serve more strategically,” said Dykeman. “We’re starting three freshmen, and missing two of our all-state players, so I’m very pleased with the teamwork and leadership we’re showing at this point.”
In the battle vs. Quincy, the Lady Leafs stormed out to a 14-5 lead in the first set behind the play of Abby Barickman, Hannah Copeland and Maddy Barickman. After Quincy took the second set, both teams played exceptionally well in the deciding set as the Lady Leafs capitalized on miscues from Quincy, and received more strong net play to pick up the victory.
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Tied at 23, a score at the net by Maddy Barickman, and the serving of Frerichs closed out the set for Geneseo.
“The match with Quincy got my heart rate up, and definitely gave the fans their money’s worth,” Komel said. “We were able to learn from the opportunities presented to us throughout the match, and our players did a great job of reading the court and making adjustments, so I’m pleased with the day overall.”
Quincy vs. Sterling
In the second battle of the day, Sterling jumped ahead of the Blue Devils and led 12-6 and 19-12. It appeared that the Golden Warriors would cruise to an early victory, but Quincy proved willing to fight their way back, led by the play at the net of Emma Sparrow and Lexi Wolf. An ace by Blaine Evers pulled Quincy to within 4 points, at 22-18.
Sterling’s experience in tight matches was enough to end the run by the Blue Devils, as a well-placed touch score by Macie Gebhardt, and a powerful mid-court kill by Borum led Sterling to the first set victory by the score of 25-19.
The second set of the match stayed close until an excellent point ended with a score by Grace Gould for Sterling, to put the Golden Eagles up 7-4. Borum, a junior who has committed to play her college volleyball at the University of South Florida, was virtually unstoppable from that point on in the set, contributing multiple kills at the net, and also serving exceptionally well down the stretch. Sterling prevailed in the second set over Quincy 25-13.
“Our players made the important adjustments, defended very well, had some great blocks at the net, and also served to spots on the court that caused problems for Quincy,” said Dykeman. “Our lone conference loss was at Moline, and we are focusing on playing at a consistently high level to not only compete for the conference crown, but also to play our best volleyball in late October in the post-season.”
Quincy coach Tim Hill was impressed with the play of their new conference foe. “Without a doubt, Sterling is the best team we’ve faced so far, in practice we put ourselves in tough situations that hopefully we can replicate on the court, and we will learn a great deal from today.”
Hill considered the triangular to be an excellent opportunity for his team that will help them going forward.
“Although it was a bit of a rough day, we played competitively, and our team leaders are definitely stepping forward and showing the tenacity to help us mount comebacks and play at a high level.”