CARBONDALE — The Murphysboro volleyball team has made plenty of positives strides since it got off to a below .500 start in its first 10 matches of the season.
The Red Devils put it all together and won a regional crown on Thursday night.
Lillie Schaldemose delivered nine kills as Murphysboro swept Carbondale 25-16, 25-21 in the Class 3A regional finale.
“We played really, really well at times,” said Murphysboro coach Mike Layne. “We played as clean of a match as I’ve seen us play from the defensive end, and that really transitioned into our offense. To win three 3A regionals in a row says something special about our girls in this program.”
Murphysboro was just 4-6 early in the season, but the squad is firing on all cylinders right now.
In the opening set, Drew Stokes assisted to Mallorie Harris for a kill, which gave the Red Devils an 11-5 advantage. Rachel Finders threw down a kill as Murphysboro took a 21-14 lead, and Carbondale never could quite catch up.
“We had little spurts of points, but nothing really broke through,” said Carbondale coach Fae Ragan. “Our blocking at the net really hurt us. They really outsized us. We needed to go out there and execute, and it just wasn’t happening.”
Harris added seven kills for Murphysboro, and Finders contributed six kills. But it all starts with the setting of Stokes, who amassed 22 assists.
“She makes the passers look good, she makes the hitters look good, she makes everybody look good,” Layne said of Stokes. “She makes the defense on the other side look bad sometimes with her craftiness. Since about four games into the season, she has ran that offense with no help from me. She does a remarkable job.”
The second set was closer until Murphysboro made a big run at the end. The Red Devils held just a 17-15 edge, but ripped off seven of the next eight points. Harris and Finders were huge for their team during that stretch.
Carbondale (30-7) made a five-point run late, but it wasn’t enough. Murphysboro improved its record to 27-9.
Maddie Misner had seven kills and eight digs for Carbondale, and Naudia Johnson added three blocks. Gabby Brown produced nine digs for Murphysboro.
“We had to question ourselves early in the year, and we had to gut check what we were and who we are,” Layne said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these girls as to how they established their identity as they kept moving forward. They never quit; that’s not in our blood.”
Murphysboro takes on Althoff Catholic at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the semifinals of the Benton Sectional.