Sterling volleyball may have earned its biggest win of the entire season on Saturday.

The Tigers — ranked fourth in Class 3A — hosted No. 2 Lutheran in a rematch of 2019’s state championship match. Much like their last meeting, Sterling came out on top.

This time, it only took three tries.

“We just kept working, kept working, kept working and making some plays,” head coach Lisa Schumacher said. “We won that first set, and I think that was huge for my team to know that they can do it if they want. Everything was huge that we did today.”

Sydney Henry ended the match as the killer queen with 14 kills to her name followed by Kaylee Johnson, who added nine. Four ladies earned double digit digs on defense: Henry (15 digs), Hailey Fehringer (14 digs), Aubree Long (13 digs) and Allie Schumacher (11 digs).

As was expected, the Lions and Tigers (oh my!) began the match with extremely tight competition that saw a lot of back-and-forth play. Sterling won that battle, barely, with a score of 26-24 in the first set.

The Tigers got even stronger after that.

Over the next two sets, they brought their strongest game against 3A’s second-best team, beating them 25-19 and 25-21. It certainly didn’t hurt that the Tigers put together a solid game on both offense and defense with better blocking, smarter hitting and a stronger performance from the back line.

“Mentally, our team was very sound,” Long said. “We did not let little errors get in our heads like we did in previous games. We have a super supportive and positive atmosphere and are focused on what we do well instead of the mistakes, which is a huge contributing factor to our success.”

Sterling, now 9-2 on the season, suffered its previous two losses at the hands of two other top-10 powerhouses: No. 9 Resurrection Christian and No. 1 Eaton. Lutheran, of course, won the state title in 2018.

Saturday’s huge win just highlighted the growth that Sterling has seen in a short period of time this season, from suffering through a slow start to knocking off a top dog.

“We struggled at the beginning mostly because we didn’t practice,” Lisa Schumacher said. “When you come off COVID and you haven’t touched a ball—and a couple kids have touched the ball in club and the other ones haven’t—they just need time. That’s what it was. We’ve had our ups and downs but again, we’re always working forward to get better. I think that’s the biggest piece of the puzzle.”

As it stands now, Sterling is in a good position to earn a favorable seeding to the 3A state tournament. Their final road to the postseason, however, won’t be easy. First, they’ll host Frontier Academy—who’s getting votes in CHSAANow.com’s poll—on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. After that, they’ll have to face Valley and Fleming. Valley just dropped out of the 3A state rankings this week and Fleming is top-ranked in 1A.

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