Taylor Matson used to practice her shots with her aunt, Ann Cowling, in the cozy gym at St. Mary’s.
The gym ceiling was so small that some of her shots hit the ceiling and caromed back to the ground.
Matson might not have known it at the time, but those hours spent trying to avoid that low ceiling made her a better volleyball player.
“It sure made you learn how to pass the ball accurately,” said Matson, a senior on the Metamora volleyball team. “I still think about that old gym sometimes, if I make a bad pass.”
Matson is the lone returning all-conference player for the Redbirds, who lost a bunch of talented players from last year’s conference championship team.
Coach Karla Bartman has moved the versatile Matson around the floor in practice, but she said she hopes to use her as a hitter this year.
“Taylor stepped in last year when one of our setters was injured, and she did a great job,” Bartman said. “But, she’s a natural hitter. That’s where she would help us the most. It will all depend on how our setters come along. I might have to move Taylor there again. We’ll see.”
Matson has been playing volleyball since she was in sixth grade. Cowling was her coach throughout middle school at St. Mary’s.
Over the past two summers, she played club volleyball with the area’s “hard core” volleyball players, including Washington senior Lexi Barra.
“All summer, she (Barra) kept saying that they were going to beat us,” Matson said. “But, I kept telling her that she was wrong. We’re good friends, except for when we play against each other.”
Washington and Morton will be two of the teams looking to end the Redbirds’ string of three straight conference titles.
Morgan Obery, Lindsey Herman, Briana Lampe, Krista Polanin and Brittany Wernsman all graduated, which puts even more pressure on Matson and fellow returning players Paige Garber, Shelby Sutherland, Ashley Huser, Ali Helton and Meghan Heman.
“We lost a lot of good players, but everybody has been working hard,” Matson said. “We’ll still be a really good team.”
Bartman said the Mid-Illini Conference race will be a “dogfight.”
“It will be tough. Our seniors have big shoes to fill, and they will need to step up and do the job,” Bartman said. “They have the talent to do it.”
Bartman said she likes what she sees from her younger players, including Anna Gualandri, Kasey Kanaga, Maddie Anglin and Kristin Rauh, this summer.
“All the kids have a great attitude. They are willing to put in the work and do what it takes to make us successful,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of varsity experience, but we have some good players.”
Volley for the Cure
The Metamora Township High School Volleyball teams will host “Volley for the Cure” on Sept. 28 against Limestone
Games begin at 5pm.
Last year, the Volley night raised more than $5,000 to donate to Susan G. Komen in the fight against breast cancer.
Fans wearing the pink “Volley for the Cure’ T-shirts will get free admission to the game. The T-shirts can be purchased now from any volleyball player, or by contacting Doreen Musselman at 369-6798 as soon as possible.
In addition to selling pink T-shirts, each team will raffle theme baskets to raise money for the cause. Raffle tickets are available from any volleyball player or by contacting Val Huser at 256-3965.
All breast cancer survivors will be recognized at this event. Call Huser at 256-3965 or Theresa Kells at 383-3158 with those names, as well as to honor anyone who has lost the battle to breast cancer.
Anyone interested in donating to this event should also contact Huser or Kells.
Eureka finished second at the Eureka Invitational Saturday.
The Hornets lost to Urbana, 25-18, 27-25 in the title match.
Eureka plays Rantoul at home at 7 p.m Tuesday.
Metamora went 4-1 at the Macomb Tournament over the weekend.
In a three-set win over Macomb Saturday, Ali Helton had seven aces. Maddie Anglin had 12 kills. Paige Garber had five blocks. Taylor Matson had 16 assists.
Metamora hosts East Peoria at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Red Devils picked fifthThe Eureka College volleyball team has been picked to finish fifth in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2010 according to a preseason coaches’ poll.
Three-time defending conference champion Webster was picked to win the nine-team conference.
Fourth-year head coach Sandi Kelley, who won the league’s Coach of the Year award last season, plans to return four starters from last season’s squad that finished fourth in the SLIAC with an 8-8 league record.
Kelley will also welcome 10 newcomers this season to go along with seven returnees to give Eureka its largest roster since Kelley arrived on campus in 2007.
Four-year players and team captains Marisa Durley and Kaurie Lindenmeyer will lead a team that earned its first-ever SLIAC Tournament bid last season.
“Our team is very excited to build on the success we experienced last season,” Kelley said. “I’m pleased with the preparation our team has done this summer and we’re working hard to be in the postseason again this fall.”
The Red Devils open the season today at Lincoln.