Underwood's Maria Wirtz and Shiloh's Liz Larson face off at the net on Saturday.


 The Shiloh Christian hitters and blockers aren't unusually big in terms of feet and inches, but today they stand tall.

 "We don't have a six-footer across the front, but they're good jumpers," said Shiloh co-coach Penny Kaldor, who shares duties with Lisa Wingerter. 


 Shiloh tamed Center-Stanton's and Flasher's big hitters well enough to capture the championship in Saturday's Shiloh Invitational volleyball tournament.

 Shiloh qualified for the bracketed tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Skyhawks advanced via a 25-16, 25-21 win over Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter and a 15-25, 25-15, 15-9 victory over second-seeded Center-Stanton.

 The Skyhawks disposed of top-seeded Flasher 25-13, 24-26, 15-12 in the championship match. Center-Stanton finished third with a 26-24, 25-16 victory over Grant County.

 Shiloh limited Center-Stanton's hard-hitting trio of Abby Hintz, Morgan Vitek and Mykaela Jacobson to four, eight and three kills in the semifinal match.

 In the finals, the Skyhawks kept Flasher's Marion sisters, Emma and Faith, fairly well in check, holding them to a combined 13 kills through the first two games. The third game was another matter, however, as Faith drilled seven counters. Emma finished the match with 12 kills and Faith had 10.

 Shiloh's answer was balance. Brittan Grubb stung the Bulldogs for 11 kills and 1.5 blocks. Jesse Ebach added eight kills and a block, Graycin Wanzek contributed seven kills and 2.5 kills and Liz Larson added five kills and a block. All but Wanzek, a sophomore, are seniors.

 Shiloh, now 17-3, went 4-0 in pool play. Flasher, 17-6, also breezed through pool play. Flasher defeated Grant County 25-22, 25-9 in the semifinal round.

 Saturday's clash with Flasher was Shiloh's second of the season. Shiloh edged Flasher in a tight semifinal three-setter en route to the title in the Center-Stanton tournament two weeks ago.

 Kaldor said Saturday's triumph was worth much more than a trophy to her. She said it exhibited growth.

 "It definitely represents progress. We knew we had all the pieces to the puzzle and we're starting to put them together," she observed. "It was an honor to win the Center tournament, and this (championship) kind of confirms that."

 The recent play of the Skyhawk defense has been an area of particular satisfaction.

 "We started out the year knowing we had strong hitters, so the defense is what we needed to strengthen. ... Blocking is something we've really been working hard on this year. It's been a weakness until the last couple of matches. We're keeping the blocks together," Kaldor said.

 Grubb, a 5-foot-5 senior, said the Skyhawks knew they had to play well against Flasher.

 "They have good hitters. They have smart hitters. We have to be mentally focused, scrappy and play as a team against them," Grubb said.

 The Marion sisters were definitely an area of concern.

 "We knew we had to place our blockers in the right positions ... and it really helps to have a good back row. They have to be scrappy and ready for (Flasher's) hits," Grubb noted.

 Saturday's effort gave Shiloh first place in its own tournament for the second time in three years. Winning their own tournament gives the Skyhawks a 17-game winning streak. More important to Grubb, however, is the way the team performed on Saturday.

 "Collectively, this tournament is the best we've played," she said. "We played together."