By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — FARMINGTON, Ill. -- Those who figured Fulton would make a quick exit in postseason volleyball have gotten a surprise.
Don’t count coach Stacy Germann as part of that group, even though the team’s record was well below .500 for the first month or more of the season.
“No they’re not (surprising me); they were surprising me early in the year,” she said Tuesday after the Steamers swept Orion in a sectional semifinal at Farmington High School.
“I knew these girls had it in them,” said Germann, who has guided Fulton to six regional titles and two sectional crowns in 16 years at the school. “I think they needed to learn to think as a team as individuals. Once they hit that ... truly I anticipated 20-plus wins with these guys. It just took them awhile to come around.”
The Steamers (14-17-3) have won three consecutive matches in the Class 2A playoffs, and they are back on the court at 7 tonight to face Abingdon-Avon for the championship of the Farmington Sectional. The winner advances to Saturday’s 7 p.m. super-sectional match against either Minonk Fieldcrest or Watseka at Bureau Valley High School in Manlius, Ill.
“I feel they have the momentum,” Germann said of her players. “They want it. They want it just as good as any team that’s gotten this far that I’ve had. They’re determined. They’ve been underdogs and been known as a darkhorse. They want to prove it; they want to prove that regional championship wasn’t a fluke and they belonged here.”
The players are feeling it, too.
“We know what works, we know what each other is going to do and we know that we have to push through to get the win,” Ann Renkes said.
Renkes and Chelsea Lesniewski played key roles in Tuesday’s win at the service line. Each recorded five aces in the 25-21, 27-25 victory.
“Our serving has been very effective all year, but you get to this point in time of your season and teams are going to have good serve-receive,” Germann said. “That’s been a key for us. We have a lot of players who can do good float serves and good top-spin serves, and if other teams don’t see that often, then they struggle with that.”
But, it’s not just serving that has been a key to the team’s turnaround. Senior setter-hitter Rachael Beiermann said the team had gotten better in just about every facet.
“We started off and we weren’t really clicking,” she said. “Now, things are going more smoothly. Our passes are getting up to the setters now and making it a lot easier for us to set up our hitters. And our hitters are placing it a lot better, too. We’ve just come together more as a team throughout the season.”
Now, the team is finally playing the way Germann had envisioned, and the success is showing at the most important time of the year.