Balance has carried the St. Joseph-Ogden High School volleyball team all season.
Whether it’s receiving timely kills from players like senior Katelyn Berry, junior Payton Vallee or sophomore Kennedi Burnett, well-placed passes from senior Emily Bigger and quality defense from seniors Rylee Stahl and Kenly Taylor, several Spartans have shined. It’s all led to an 18-match win streak and a Class 2A regional championship this season.
The Spartans added another impressive accomplishment among a litany of them this season with a sweep of Monticello on Thursday to win the 2A Oakwood Regional championship. SJO cruised to a 25-17, 25-14 win against the Sages,
advancing the Spartans to next Monday’s sectional semifinal in Watseka. SJO (33-4) will face Seneca at 6 p.m., with Unity and Herscher meeting at 7 p.m. in the second sectional semifinal. The two sectional semifinal winners will meet at 6 p.m. next Wednesday in the sectional championship.
Berry produced a team-high nine kills for SJO against Monticello, while senior Stephanie Trame (five kills), Burnett (four kills, 10 digs), junior Payton Vallee (four kills) and senior Lacey Kaiser (three kills) all contributed. Bigger posted 23 assists and seven digs, while Stahl (13 digs) and Kaiser (three aces) also delivered at critical times.
Prior to the win against Monticello, SJO opened the postseason on Tuesday with a 25-5, 25-8 win against Oakwood in a regional semifinal match. Burnett (nine kills) and Vallee (six kills) powered SJO’s offense, with Bigger (18 assists, nine aces) and Stahl (seven digs, four aces) contributing as well.
SJO concluded the regular season this past Saturday by winning the Topper Tournament in Mt. Pulaski.
SJO went 5-0 at the one-day tournament, topping Mt. Zion 20-25, 25-23, 25-12, Illini Central 25-5, 25-17, Olympia 25-18, 25-12, Shelbyville 25-9, 25-14 and Mt. Zion again, 25-19, 25-15, to win the tournament.
Four Spartans compiled at least 20 kills during the tournament, led by 31 from Burnett. Vallee (28), Berry (24), Kaiser (22), Trame (11) and Bigger (nine) all contributed. Bigger distributed 97 assists to direct SJO’s offense on the day, while Stahl added nine assists.
Stahl paced the defensive effort with 46 digs, while Bigger (31), Burnett (27), senior Lindsey Aden (21), Taylor (19) and Berry (11) all registered double-digit digs on the day.
Stahl bolstered SJO’s serving with a team-best five aces at the tournament, while Burnett, Taylor and Kaiser all finished with four aces.
The successful day in Mt. Pulaski was preceded by two Illini Prairie Conference wins last week to leave SJO with an 8-1 mark in the 10-team league, good enough for second place behind champion St. Thomas More.
SJO won 25-17, 25-19 at Monticello last Thursday, with Burnett supplying 11 kills and nine digs, Bigger handing out 29 assists and Stahl making seven digs.
Prior to the win at Monticello, SJO delivered a 25-17, 25-14 win against Olympia on Oct. 22 in the Spartans’ final home match of the season. Berry led the SJO offense with 10 kills, while Burnett (five), senior Jenna Albrecht (four), Kaiser (three), Bigger (two) and Trame (two) all had multiple kills.
Bigger also pitched in with 24 assists, while Stahl (eight digs), Burnett (seven digs) and Taylor (five digs) chipped in defensively and Aden landed a team-best three aces.
SJO’s regional championship on Thursday was the second straight for the program and seventh time this decade. The Spartans will try to win a sectional championship for the fifth time in program history this week, with the Watseka Sectional champion advancing to the Chicago Christian Super-Sectional at 6:30 p.m. next Friday.