By Kyle Daubs
Home court advantage certainly helps.
Because beating the same team three times in a season wasn’t difficult enough.
Mattoon will begin postseason play tonight at 6:30 against Effingham. The Class 3A Regional semifinals will be played at Effingham High School.
“Home-court advantage is always a factor to be considered,” said Mattoon coach Kayla Quick. “Teams are just naturally more comfortable on their courts.”
However, Quick does not see Effingham’s home-court advantage as a major hurdle for her 16-11 Green Wave squad. Mattoon has two victories (2-1, 2-0) over the 14-21 Hearts this season. A win would put Mattoon in the IHSA Regional Championship just one season after winning only two games.
“I don’t see this having a negative impact on our performance,” said Quick. “Both teams are entering the postseason with the same goal: make it to the next game. I have every confidence that my girls will come out ready to play this game with the same intensity in Effingham’s gym as they would if they had the opportunity to play on their home court.”
Effingham finished the Apollo season with a 2-10 record. The Hearts are led by 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter Lexi Chrappa, who leads the team in kills. She is joined by two senior teammates in 5-foot-9 Brueklyn Belcher and 5-foot-10 Kennedy Sowell.
Quick said that the hitting from the Hearts should keep Effingham in the game and make it tough for the Green Wave to pull off the trifecta for the year.
“We’ve indeed come out on top both times we’ve had the opportunity to play Effingham,” said Quick. “However, neither game was an easy one to win. Effingham has some great hitters and a solid back row to defend against our offense. This game will be a fight to the very end for both teams. We are going to go into this game with a defensive mentality. Defense wins volleyball games, so if we can solidify our back row, our offense will naturally fall into place.”
Mattoon will rely on senior hitter Averie Smith, who leads the team with 143 kills. Senior teammate Bella Smith is second on the team with 122 kills. The two Smith teammates have also combined for 50 aces this season.
Senior Holly McReynolds leads the team in blocks with 59, while senior Faith Niebrugge leads the team in digs with 205, while senior Chloe Jobe is right behind with 183.
Quick, who has been with this senior group since they were freshmen, has made it clear that she does not want this season to end on Tuesday.
“As a coach watching from the sidelines, I already know that these girls can do anything they put their minds to,” said Quick. “It’s time that they believe that, too. Advancing to the regional championship match would mean that all of our hard work this season has paid off. My team this year is full of seniors who don’t want their final volleyball season to end. I have every confidence that this group is capable of not only advancing to the regional championship game but bringing home the regional title and moving on to the sectional competition.”
If Mattoon wins, they will play the winner of the 5:30 game between Marion and Olney East Richland. Olney defeated Charleston in three sets to move to the semifinals. Charleston finished their season 8-26.