Knights return large core from last year
EDWARDSVILLE — After falling short of winning their third consecutive regional championship, the Metro-East Lutheran Knights return a solid core trying to start a new streak.
The Knights return six of their top seven hitters and their setter from last season’s team that finished 12-24 after losing in three games to Brussels in the finals of the Class 1A MELHS Regional.
“Every year is a new transition. We do bring some pieces back that will make the transition a little smoother,” said MELHS coach Jon Giordano, who is entering his 21st season as head coach of the Knights.
“When you bring back your setter, some middles and outside hitters, it’s nice to have that core. The returners have been working really hard and setting the tone for everybody else.”
The offense will run around setter Sidney Vetter, a senior entering her second year as starter.
Vetter finished with 560 assists last season, including a career-high 37 against Piasa Southwestern on Sept. 19. It was two assists shy of a single-match program record set by Lydia Flaherty in 2016.
“Sidney has been phenomenal for us. She is going to take more of a leadership role for us on and off the floor,” Giordano said.
There are plenty of options for Vetter when it comes to finding hitters around the net.
The Knights bring back seniors Taylor Bradley and Kate Weber and junior Alaina Bozarth.
Bradley, a middle, finished with 151 kills and 54 blocks.
“Taylor has been lighting it up for us in the middle,” Giordano said. “Alaina has also been hitting well for us, as well as Kate.”
Bozarth had 79 kills, 24 aces and 14 blocks, while Weber added 97 kills and was second on the team with 36 aces.
Defensively, the Knights must replace Emily Schwarz, who is now at Concordia University Chicago.
Schwarz finished with a single-season program-record 550 digs — 697 without errors. She had the fifth most in the area.
Schwarz reached double digits in the stat in each of the team’s 36 matches this season. She saved her best for last, finishing with a career-high 29 digs in a three-set loss to Brussels.
Giordano said it will take a team effort.
“Everybody is going to have to play their position better, including making our blocks better to keep the ball alive and convert on more opportunities,” Giordano said.
Depth players include senior Sami Kasting and sophomores Anna Kienle, Chloe Langendorf and Caitlin Reynolds.
The Knights will be tested early and often with another challenging schedule, which is the norm under Giordano.
MELHS opens the season against Alton, of the Southwestern Conference, on Wednesday. The Knights are in the Springfield Lutheran Tournament this weekend.
Metro will play in the Mascoutah Tournament, Belleville East Tournament and O’Fallon Invitational later in the season.
“This usually puts us in the position to be competitive and try to win a regional and conference championship, which is always our goal,” said Giordano, who has won 11 regional championships at MELHS.