By Travis Buckwalter
Charleston volleyball: Regional champions. That’s got a nice ring to it.
Senior Abby Kallis said she agrees but she could never have imagined hearing that as an underclassman. Not with several other strong programs in the area, such as Mattoon and Effingham, the Trojans’ opponent Thursday night.
Plus, Charleston had not won a regional title since 1997, and had won only one other, in 1983.
“If you would have asked me three years ago, then probably not,” said Kallis. “This team is a great team. Everything about it, from the coaches to the players.”
Charleston (25-11) dominated at the net, passed well and served even better to defeat Effingham for the third time this season, 25-16, 18-25, 25-14, in the IHSA Class 3A regional volleyball final at Baker Gym.
“Hats off to these kids,” Charleston coach Steve Pamperin said. “They have put in a lot of work and a lot of time. They have stuck together.
The Trojans advance to play host Waterloo (23-8-1) in Monday’s sectional opener, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Waterloo rallied to defeat Taylorville (27-11) on Thursday night after having lost the first set and trailing in the final set, 15-25, 25-17, 25-23.
Charleston took an early 5-4 lead in the first set and rode three different runs of four points or more, before taking the set, 25-16 win.
Charleston quickly jumped ahead in the ensuing set as well, at 4-3 over the Hearts, but unforced errors enabled Effingham to take a lead midway through the set that it would not relinquish.
“They definitely came harder and with a lot more passion than we did (in that second set),” Kallis said. “We just thought we would have it the same way as the first set.”
Effingham took over, jumping to a lead as big as five, before the Trojans fought back behind junior Katarina Blase, who put together a series of blocks and kills to score five out of six points to bring the deficit to one. Blase registered 18 kills overall.
“(Blase) blocked us several times even when we were trying to tip around her,” Effingham coach Laurie Bohnhoff said. “Even when we would tip, she would still be able to get a block on us.”
Charleston was able to close the gap at 16-all before taking only their second lead of the set at 17-16. Effingham, though, scored nine of the last 10 points to take the second set.
“It just felt like our communication wasn’t as good as it usually was,” Blase said. “We weren’t as excited as we were in the first set.”
The Trojans responded by jumping ahead 4-0, fending off a three-point rally by Effingham and then scoring 14 of the next 17 points to go ahead 18-6 on a run capped off by four straight aces by Kallis.
“The fire came from (the players),” Pamperin said. “We let them know throughout the season that they have what it takes to win, and, when they play, the results will speak for themselves.”
Kallis had a match-high seven aces, five in the final set.
Said Kallis: “I made a couple errors in the past with some doubles and I wanted some revenge for that.”
Blase registered 18 kills for Charleston.
You can find more game videos, interviews and photos on our Instagram page: @ColesCountySports. You can also find more local sports news on Facebook (@ColesCountySports) and Twitter (@ColesCounty)