Scott Marion/The Intelligencer
GRANITE CITY — It took Edwardsville 42 minutes to beat Father McGivney on Tuesday night, but there were times when it may have seemed like an eternity for the Tigers.
FMCHS, in its first varsity season, gave Edwardsville all it could handle before EHS pulled away for a 25-21, 25-18 victory in the semifinals of the Granite City Regional.
The second-seeded Tigers (18-8) advance to the championship match, where they will face Belleville East (17-12) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The third-seeded Lancers advanced with a 25-21, 25-23 win over No. 5 Granite City in the other semifinal.
“Their defense was very good, a little better than what we exopected, and they were pretty consistent,” said EHS junior Josh Whittenburg.
”In the second game, our hitting was a little better. We had struggled with a lot of hitting errors. We were also a little more consistent with our serves.”
EHS will be playing for its eighth regional championship in its 11-year history and will be appearing in the sectional final for the 10th straight year.
But getting there wasn’t easy, as eighth-seeded Father McGivney (6-11) stayed close until the last few points of the second game.
“They had some great defensive plays and they were reading balls,” said EHS coach Scott Smith, whose team was playing FMCHS for the first time. “They limited their errors and they did a great job of attacking the ball and putting us on our heels.”
While FMCHS couldn’t pull off the upset, FMCHS coach Amanda Dreyer was proud of her team, which was tied with EHS late in the first game.
“The boys played really well in the back court,” Dreyer said. “At the net, their blocking was really good.
“Our defense has the potential of winning any game and our positioning allowed us opportunities to get the ball back up and capitalize on their errors.”
In a back-and-forth first game, Father McGivney took its final lead at 17-16 on a kill by sophomore Jacob Jones.
With the score tied at 21-21, Edwardsville reeled off the last four points to win the game, with the final point coming on a kill by Sam Stearns.
FMCHS kept pace with the Tigers throughout most of game two, pulling within 19-17. But EHS closed out the game with a 6-1 run, winning the match on a hitting error by the Griffins.
“It’s their first year as a varsity program, so they were really hungry for a win,” EHS junior Max Sellers said. “Since they’re so near by us, they had the heart that they really wanted to beat us,
“Their defense was really good and it was a little frustrating, Some of their swings were different than what we expect and it took us a while to adjust.”
Sellers had a team-high nine kills for EHS while Whittenburg and Sam Stearns added six and five kills, respectively.
Brock Hennig and Preston Weaver had 11 assists apiece while Henry Hupp led the Tigers with 13 digs.
Hupp and Daniel Park each had two ace serves.
Jones, DJ Villhard had 10 digs apiece for Father McGivney while Jacob Kraus and Villhard had three and two kills, respectively.
Caleb Tanyzyus had three blocks (two solo) for the Griffins while Kraus had two solo blocks.
Josh Jamruk had five assists and one ace serve for FMCHS.
“For a first-year varsity team to go point for point with one of the better teams in our area, it’s a big accomplishment,” Dreyer said. “We wanted to come in with confidence and work together and defense was the big focus, so the kids did exactly what we wanted them to do.”
In the regional final, Edwardsville will be facing a more familiar opponent in Belleville East. The Tigers beat the Lancers 23-25, 25-21, 25-16 at East on April 25 after a 25-8, 25-14 victory at EHS on March 28.
“They’re always a challenge and they looked good tonight against Granite City,” said Smith, whose team is seeking its third straight regional title. “It’s difficult to beat a team three times regardless of the previous scores, so we have to be ready for them.”
Reach reporter Scott Marion at [email protected]