Girls volleyball: Montini rolls into Class 2A state title game

  • Montini's Maddie Kasallis celebrates a point against Breese Mater Dei in the Class 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021.

    Montini's Maddie Kasallis celebrates a point against Breese Mater Dei in the Class 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Montini's Maddie Kasallis and Isabel Evenson, right, watch their blocked shot fall to the floor against Breese Mater Dei in the 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021.

    Montini's Maddie Kasallis and Isabel Evenson, right, watch their blocked shot fall to the floor against Breese Mater Dei in the 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Montini's Ariana Joubert books a shot away from Breese Mater Dei's Riley Kleber in the 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021.

    Montini's Ariana Joubert books a shot away from Breese Mater Dei's Riley Kleber in the 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Montini's Maddie Kasallis hits against Breese Mater Dei's Riley Kleber in the 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021.

    Montini's Maddie Kasallis hits against Breese Mater Dei's Riley Kleber in the 2A semifinal volleyball match at Illinois State University on Friday, November 12, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Montini's Reeghan Boyer passes the ball Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal.

    Montini's Reeghan Boyer passes the ball Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal. Alex T. Paschal for Shaw Media

  • Montini's Jordan Heatherly sets the ball for Madalyn Kasallis Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal.

    Montini's Jordan Heatherly sets the ball for Madalyn Kasallis Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal. Alex T. Paschal for Shaw Media

  • Montini's Paige Pickering hammers a shot against Mater Dei Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal.

    Montini's Paige Pickering hammers a shot against Mater Dei Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal. Alex T. Paschal for Shaw Media

  • Montini coach Trish Samolinski walks the sidelines Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal.

    Montini coach Trish Samolinski walks the sidelines Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal. Alex T. Paschal for Shaw Media

  • Montini's Audrey Kinney (left) and Jordan Heatherly jump for joy following their defeat of Mater Dei Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal.

    Montini's Audrey Kinney (left) and Jordan Heatherly jump for joy following their defeat of Mater Dei Friday, Nov. 12, 2021 in the Class 2A volleyball semifinal. Alex T. Paschal for Shaw Media

 
By Kevin McGavin
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/12/2021 3:13 PM

NORMAL -- The traditional suburban St. Louis girls volleyball power was essentially rendered powerless by Montini Friday afternoon.

Paige Pickering opened the first semifinal of the Class 2A state tournament for Montini with three consecutive aces against seven-time state champion Breese Mater Dei.

 

The Knights never recovered.

Pickering, the star offensive player for the Broncos, was equally unstoppable around the net, registering a match-high 10 kills to power Montini to never-reached heights in program history.

With its resounding 25-11 and 25-10 straight-sets victory at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University, Montini not only extended its winning streak to 36 matches in a row but also earned its first state-title appearance.

"My thoughts are you just watched the best team in the state," Mater Dei coach Chad Rakers told assembled media members in the immediate aftermath of the Broncos' one-sided win.

"Montini executed about as well as you could want to on a state floor."

The Broncos will face Springfield-area 2018 state- champion Pleasant Plains in the final.

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In the first set, Montini (39-1) scored 16 of the first 19 points to establish a narrative the Knights would never deconstruct.

"Getting three aces right off the bat was super exciting," said Pickering, who will attend Cincinnati next fall. "It really helped the early momentum."

Pickering was equally lethal after moving to the front row, recording 4 kills in a 5-point stretch to further deflate Mater Dei (34-6).

As if the Knights did not have enough to contend with as Pickering freely roamed her spot, fellow senior and Downers Grove resident Madalyn Kasallis was another eyesore for Mater Dei.

Kasallis complemented Pickering with 7 kills while also dominating the defensive interior with a match-high 4 blocks for points.

"The girls have been scouting Mater Deil," said Pickering, on the schools' second meeting in only a matter of weeks.

"We knew a faster tempo would help out."

The Broncos' consistency never wavered on either offense or defense as Jordan Heartherly closed out the first set with one of her 4 kills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ariana Joubert would also emerge for the Broncos, elevating her efficiency in the second set.

"We have a lot of depth in the program," Montini second-year coach Trish Samolinski said.

The only lead Mater Deil could garner came on the first point of the second set. The only two deadlocks soon followed.

Heatherly served 9 consecutive points to give Montini a comfortable 11-2 second-set lead.

Joubert made the Knights pay for their communication errors in finishing with 6 kills as Heatherly (12) and Haily Goetz (10) orchestrated the Montini attack with 22 combined assists.

The match ended on a Mater Deil technical violation.

"It would be much more fun if it would have been closer," said Kasallis."(But) you don't want it to be that close."

Western Michigan-bound Montini libero Reeghan Boyer is yet another important element in the Broncos' overall floor play.

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