SCHALLER--What do rankings really mean, anyway?
A few weeks ago, the Gehlen Catholic High volleyball team bounced around the state polls at various rankings comfortably inside the Top 20.
Then, after a loss to Unity Christian (ranked fourth in Class 2A) and a pair to Hinton (Class 1A No. 2), the Lady Jays found themselves on the outside looking in, pollwise, that is.
Because people setting up the regional pairings look at wins and losses, as opposed to strength of schedule, Gehlen (24-9-1) was forced to hit the road at No. 18 Schaller-Crestland, which had an impressive-looking 22-3-3 record coming into the match.
The visiting Lady Jays proved records and rankings ring hollow in the postseason, sweeping the Wildcats 15-8, 15-0, 17-15 in the regional quarterfinals Wednesday night.
With the win, Gehlen's Bonnie Driscoll extended her final run as a senior.
"We came out really strong and confident," said Driscoll, who had 11 kills and an ace.
For a match this far into the postseason, the game could almost seem anti-climactic because of how easy Gehlen won the first two sets.
But in Game Three, the Lady Jays were actually down 9-3 before staging a five-point rally. The points, however, weren't on consecutive serves, as there were seven side outs during this period.
Gehlen was nearly faced with having to come back for a fourth set. The team trailed 13-9, 14-13 and again at 15-14, but it found a way to overcome its hosts.
Driscoll got kills on both of the Wildcats' set points.
Katie Kolbeck (33 assists on 87-of-87 passing attempts, nine kills and three blocks) and Shannon Sitzmann (15 kills and four blocks) teamed up for a block to pull even at 15-15 before the their team finished things off with the last two points.
The Lady Jays maintained the upper hand in the first set, they made the second even easier fare.
Sophomore Leah Kluemper let off two consecutive aces. Thirteen points later, Kluemper ended it with a kill.
"We were very aggressive at the net," coach Donna Ruhland said. "Our blocking and hitting dominated the second and third sets."
In fact, Gehlen gained nine points in Game Two via kills.
The Lady Jays now find themselves in the regional semifinals against a very familiar opponent: War Eagle Conference rival Hinton. The second-ranked Blackhawks have won the four previous meetings.
The Lady Jays will have to find a way to solve the Hinton puzzle when the teams meet at 7 p.m. Monday. The site has yet to be determined.
The outcome has, too. When these teams square off, rankings mean nothing.
Gehlen Catholic stats--Aces: Kluemper 2, S. Sitzmann 2; Assists: Kolbeck 33; Blocks: Kluemper 5, S. Sitzmann 4, Kolbeck 3; Digs: S. Sitzmann 5; Kills: S. Sitzmann 15, Driscoll 11, Janning 9, Kolbeck 9, Langel 6.