EHS volleyball wants return trip to state tournament

The Edwardsville High School girls volleyball program started in 1974 when the Tigers went 8-4 under coach Mary Kay Hyten. Thirty-six years later, Edwardsville made its first state tournament appearance and took third place for coach Jami Parker in 2011.

Last season, 11 years after that 32-9 season, the Tigers made it back to Redbird Arena for the second state tournament appearance in program history and a fourth-place finish in the Class 4A bracket.

EHS doesn’t want to wait another 11 years to make it back to state.

“The girls have that taste of what it is like and that feeling of success,” Edwardsville coach Heather Ohlau said. “They want to continue that tradition and become the third team to head back there and have that legacy be theirs.”

On the way to state, the Tigers won their seventh sectional championship in program history and first since 2017, its fifth straight regional championship and sixth straight outright Southwestern Conference championship and seventh in a row.

Aug. 30 vs. O’Fallon, 5:30 pm

Sept. 1 at Collinsville, 5:30 pm

Sept. 2-3 hosts Tiger Classic

Sept. 6 vs. Belleville East, 5:30 pm

Sept. 9-10 at Crossroads Classic in Effingham

Sept. 13 at Alton, 5:30 pm

Sept. 15 at East St. Louis, 5:30 pm

Sept. 20 vs. St. Joseph’s Academy, 5:30 pm

Sept. 22 vs. Belleville West, 5:30 pm

Sept. 27 at O’Fallon, 6 pm

Sept. 28 vs. Cor Jesu, 5:30 pm

Oct. 4 vs. Collinsville, 5:30 pm

Oct. 6 at Belleville East, 5:30 pm

Oct. 7-8 at Scholastic Cup in St. Charles

Oct. 11 vs. Alton, 5:30 pm

Oct. 13 vs. East St. Louis, 5:30 pm

Oct. 14-15 at Plainfield Central Fall Harvest

Oct. 17 vs. Mater Dei, 5:30 pm

Oct. 20 at Belleville West, 5:30 pm


The 12-0 finish in the league pushed Edwardsville’s SWC winning streak to 52 in a row, giving the Tigers a 112-4 record in conference play since winning their first-ever SWC title in 2007.

Graduation losses included Gabby Saye, Rachel Heflin, Kaitlyn Conway, Madison Vieth, Emma Garner, Sydney Harris, Lexie Griffin, Jada Hall and Kloi Karban.

Saye was an All-State and All-Southwestern Conference performer at the right side after leading the Tigers last season with 351 kills and 3.66 kills per game. She hit 37.45 percent on the season.

Garner, an outside hitter, and Conway, a libero, earned All-SWC first-team honors. Griffin, a setter, and Harris, a middle blocker, earned second-team honors, while Vieth, a setter, was on the third team.

“Last year, we had a larger class with nine seniors that graduated, including several that played large roles in that run to the state tournament,” Ohlau said. “We still have some talent. Edwardsville volleyball runs deep through the middle school programs. The skilled players are there. We just have to keep getting them ready.”

Of the returning players, 5-10 senior middle blocker Ava Waltenberger, 5-10 junior outside hitter Sydney Davis and 5-3 junior libero Hanna Matarelli have the most experience.

Waltenberger finished with 134 kills and 76 blocks, while Davis had 142 kills, 41 aces and 28 blocks and Matarelli had 81 digs.

An All-SWC third-team selection last season, Waltenberger will take on a much bigger role this season for the Tigers.

“Ava Waltenbeger is a returning senior who played a key role in last year’s run as the starting middle. She has taken on that leadership about the expectation is for Edwardsville volleyball,” Ohlau said. “Last year for Ava was just the beginning for what she is going to be able to do this year. The key is going to be finding her on offense and having a diverse offense. Defensively, with the blocks, she has done a nice job so far of being able to read our hitters.”

Other middle blockers include 5-11 sophomore Addie Reader and 5-10 freshman Ciara Cunningham.

Ohlau said, “Reader has really developed nicely … and Cunningham is very versatile with the speed, reach and drive.”

On the outside, EHS returns its top attacker in Davis.

“She has put in the work during the offseason and has come into this season with a passion and fire to lead the offense,” Ohlau said.

Senior Vyla Hupp, listed at 5-9, will add depth on the outside.

Right-side hitters include 6-1 senior Claire Dunivan, 5-8 senior Mackenzie Herberer and 5-6 senior Dallas Jenkins. Dunivan has the most experience of the three after accumulating 13 kills a season ago.

Replacing the combination of Griffin and Vieth at setter will be one of three juniors in Sara Gouy, Olivia Johnes and Megan Knobeloch. The three combined for 37 assists last season, including Knobeloch with 22 assists and Gouy with 15. Johnes didn’t appear in a varsity match.

“That setter position isn’t solidified,” Ohlau said. “It’s going to come down to who can run a better offense, as well as play solid defense.”

Matarelli will step into the libero role for the graduated Conway. The defense will also include 5-5 sophomore Grace Malawy.

Since the beginning of practice three weeks ago, Ohlau said the newcomers to the varsity roster have mixed well with the returning players.

“It’s nice to see the underclassmen and new faces stepping in,” Ohlau said.

After playing host to O’Fallon on Tuesday in the opener and traveling to Collinsville on Thursday, EHS will have the Tiger Classic on Friday and Saturday.

Other tournaments this season include the Crossroads Classic on Sept. 9-10 in Effingham, the Scholastic Cup on Oct. 7-8 in St. Charles and the Plainfield Central Fall Harvest on Oct. 14-15.

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