Opening loss will strenghten the Spartans, SJO falls 64-44 at home to Paris

Katie Cramer dribbles the ball in SJO's first home game of the season.
Senior Katie Cramer brings the ball down the court during first half action in her team's home opener against Paris.
(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

After grinding out four consecutive wins to start the season and bring home the GCMS/Bunnies Tipoff title last week, the St. Joseph-Ogden girls basketball team suffered their first loss of the season. Outmatched, the Spartans fell 65-44 on their home court to the visiting Paris.

The Tigers came out feisty and visibly hungry for the win on Tuesday. The coaching staff had did their homework on the SJO squad. Paris head coach Dave Tingley had his team press the Spartans player from end to end on the floor forcing plethora of turnovers from the opening tip.

The defensive pressure was too much to handle for SJO. The Spartans mustered just five first quarter points and trailed midway into the second by 20 points until Taylor Wells found a basket after the relentless Tigers ran up the score with 11 unanswered points.

Payton Jacob drilled the next two shots to narrow St. Joseph-Ogden's deficit to 14 points. From that point forward, Kevin Taylor's team, though at a slight disadvantage without the veteran leadership of Hannah Dukeman on the floor, played competitive second half.

"We knew they would be after us the whole game and press us," said Taylor, now in his third season at the helm of the Lady Spartans. "There was never a time to let up against Paris."

While it wasn't enough to come out on top, the Spartans enjoyed scoring contributions from nine players.

Starter Taylor Barnes led the way with a team-high nine points. Sophomore starter Payton Jacob had six points. Alyssa Hamilton and Ashlyn Lannert came off the bench to score six apiece as well.

"We're young. We just didn't handle it the best way we could early on," Taylor said. "I hope the girls learn from it as we move on through the season."

Paris had four players finish with double figures against the Spartans.

Senior Karrington Krabel drained a game-high 16 points for the Tigers. Sarah Isaf and Jenna Gates, also senior members of the squad, scored 12 and 10 points, respectively. Sophomore Katelyn Littleton was 2-for-2 from the free throw line and had a pair of threes in her 10 point finish.

While it was an ugly loss, Taylor is confident that his team will become stronger because of it.

"It's a learning process. We're not set up to win a regional title," Taylor said. "I'm not satisfied with this game."

Nor should he be. After major second half adjustments and the shell shock wore off, SJO played a respectable second half barely outscored by the Tigers, 34-28. Starting two seniors, two sophomores and a junior there is some chemistry that needs to come together and much work to be done before the postseason.

"I saw some things that they improved on (tonight) and we'll work on more in practice as we move forward," he added.

St. Joseph-Ogden, now at 4-1 for the season, hosts Tuscola for a non-conference game on Monday before embarking on a three-game road campaign starting next week. Playing a game every other day, SJO starts with a trip to Danville on December 7, then plays a little closer to home on December 9 against Oakwood and finishes up tour at Mahomet-Seymour on December 11.

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden 5 11 15 13 - 44
Paris 16 15 20 14 - 65

St. Joseph-Ogden: Ashlyn Lannert 6, Payton Jacob 6, Taylor Wells 5, Katie Cramer 4, Abby Behrens 3, Taylor Barnes 9, Alyssa Hamilton 6 and Payton Vallee 2.

Paris: Karrington Krabel 16, Sarah Isaf 12, Jenna Gates 10, Katelyn Littleton 10, Kendra Young 6, Madyson Rigdon 6, Deming Hawkins 3, and Kelsie Crampton 2.

First loss of the season for SJO girls

St. Joseph-Ogden's Taylor Barnes dribbles the ball into the paint during her team's home opener against Paris. The Spartans (4-1) suffered their first loss of the season with their 65-46 non-conference loss to the Lady Tigers. Barnes led the SJO scoring effort with nine points. Ashlyn Lannert, Payton Jacob and Alyssa Hamilton each contributed six points apiece. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Photo look: Volleyball places third at state

Eight days ago, the St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team defeated Rockford Lutheran after three sets 25-11, 25-20, 25-23 to place third at this year's Class 2A state tournament. Below are ten memorable photographs from more the 500 (not all of them as awesome as these moments as these) from the Spartans' final match of the season on Saturday, November 16.

SJO played 41 matches this season and won 36 of them. Their last four were grueling, emotional three-setters. Their season began with a marathon opening match and loss to eventual state champions St. Teresa, and ended with a three-set, 129-point match against the Lady Crusaders at Redbird Arena.

SJO volleyball players Lacey Kaiser and Emily Bigger
Emily Bigger and Lacey Kaiser go up for a block on a kill attempt by Rockford Lutheran's Kylie Wilhelmi in the first set. Kaiser was credited with a pair of blocks, seven digs and four kills in the match. Bigger contributed five digs and had 29 of the team's 32 assists. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

SJO's Kenly Taylor celebrates a point
Kenly Taylor celebrates a point for the Spartans during the first set. Her nine digs along with her defensive efforts in the back row were crucial in SJO ending their season with a victory. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Payton Vallee tips the ball over the net
Payton Vallee tips the ball over a Rockford Lutheran blocker. Vallee, a junior, finished the match with four kills and three digs. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Katelyn Berry goes up to put the ball away
With teammate Payton Vallee looking on and Lacey Kaiser ready to dig a possible block, senior Katelyn Berry takes a huge swing at the ball in set two against the Lady Crusaders. Berry chalked up six kills and six digs in the Spartans' win. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Lacey Kaiser dives for a tipped ball.
Stretching out as far as can go, Lacey Kaiser dives for a tipped ball in the second set. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Spartans Lindsey Aiden and Kennedi Burnett
Spartans Lindsey Aden and Kennedi Burnett share a smile after Burnett's kill puts SJO up 13-7 in the final set. Burnett, a sophomore, delivered at team-high 14 kills. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

SJO sings fight song
After winning the final set to take the match, two games to one, members of the SJO volleyball team led by seniors Jenna Albrecht and Katelyn Berry sing the school fight song with the student fan section. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Jenna Albrecht celebrates on the podium
Senior Jenna Albrecht flashes a huge smile as she waves to family members and SJO fans at Redbird Arena after receiving her bronze medal during the Class 2A awards ceremony. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

(Left to right) Lacey Kaiser, Lindsey Aden and Jenna Albrecht along with the rest of the volleyball team celebrate with the schools newest piece of state hardware. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Picture time
Linda Berry photographs her daughter Katelyn and other members of the Spartan volleyball team with the school's third place trophy during the awards ceremony at the IHSA Volleyball State Finals. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Oyster stuffing for Thanksgiving, it's not too popular around here

Stuffing, infused with turkey drippings and a healthy dose of butter, is one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.

My grams would make two batches for our family dinner, one batched baked inside the turkey and the other on one of the burners of her gas stove. Ripping up pieces of toasted bread and leaving out overnight, even as she aged, was her preferred method of preparation. If it was in a box, can or package, it wasn't good enough for my grandmother and especially so for the family's Thanksgiving meals.

Occasionally observing the holiday at the homes of others many years ago, a few families made their dressing/stuffing with oysters.

Curious as to how popular this variation was with our readers, I created a poll a little more than a week ago asking, "Do you put oysters in your stuffing?"

Six days and 171 votes later, we learned that 86% of those who responded said "no" to adding chunks of the shellfish when they make their version of the holiday dish.

The majority of the stuffing I've tried - my grandmother's included - were made with traditional ingredients such as onions, celery, spices, butter, broth, and bread. For the record, I'm not a fan of oyster stuffing/dressing or recipes that use mushrooms. However, the thought of using dried fruit and nuts, cranberries or bits of bacon does sound delicious.

Do you have a unique, delicious recipe you would like to share? We would love to hear it and share it with our readers. Email us at and we may feature it in The Sentinel next week.

Spartans Tipoff champs after OT win over PBL

They did it. For the third consecutive year, the St. Joseph-Ogden girls basketball team has brought home the Lady Falcon/Bunnies Tipoff Classic title.

They did it after defeating Paxton-Buckley-Loda 45-43 in their first overtime game of the season.

They did it with scoring contributions from eight different members of the team, not one reaching double-digits on Friday.

Senior Katie Cramer led the Spartans' offense with nine points. Alyssa Hamilton totaled two threes and a bucket in overtime to finish with eight points. Taylor Barnes, who sank six of her ten free throw attempts, and Ashlyn Lannert chipped in six points apiece.

Tied at the end of regulation time at 38-all, Lannert, Hamilton and Payton Vallee scored two points each in the final period. Barnes hit one of her two free throws during the OT session to help the Spartans outscore the Panthers seven to five.

Lannert, a sophomore, and Cramer also received all-tournament team recognition.

Mackenzie Bruns led the PBL (2-2) scoring effort with a game-high 17 points and was 7-for7 from the free throw line. Brooke Walder helped out with eight points.

Mirroring last year's state final run, SJO's record improved to 4-0 on the season. The Spartans will host their first home game of the season on Tuesday evening with a non-conference match against Paris.

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden 9 13 9 7 7 - 45
Paxton-Buckley-Loda 10 10 10 8 5 - 43

St. Joseph-Ogden: Ashlyn Lannert 6, Payton Jacob 7, Taylor Wells 5, Katie Cramer 9, Abby Behrens 2, Taylor Barnes 6, Alyssa Hamilton 8 and Payton Vallee 2.

Paxton-Buckley-Loda: Brooke Walder 8, Baylee Cosgrove 3, Lorena Arnett 5, Mackenzie Bruns 17, Kirra Lantz 3 and Makenna Ecker 7.

SJO girls advance to Lady Falcon/Bunnies Tipoff Classic title game

Tonight, St. Joseph-Ogden girls basketball team will play for their first tournament championship trophy of the season.

The shot at the Lady Falcon/Bunnies Tipoff Classic title comes on the heels of a fourth quarter surge by the Spartans. Clawing past Villa Grove/Heritage's offensive duo of Aliya Holloman (20 points) and Kyleigh Block (17 points), SJO secured their third win of the season, 46-43.

On the wrong end of a 19-15 score at the half, the Spartans dug in and drained five three-pointers in the third quarter. The Blue Devils countered with 16 points of their own, eight courtesy of Block, six from Holloman and a bucket from Samantha Campbell.

Holding VG-H to just eight points in final quarter, SJO matched that number and then added a few more.

Katie Cramer, still hot from three-point range, hit two more shots and drilled a pair of free throws. The senior finished the night with 14 points and was 2-for-2 from the line.

With the help of a clutch free throw from Payton Vallee, Taylor Barnes' third three-pointer of the game and a bucket from Payton Jacob, the Spartans prevailed improving to 3-0 on the season.

In all, St. Joseph-Ogden tallied a total of ten three-point shots from Jacob (1), Barnes (3), Cramer (4) and sophomore Abby Behrens with two.

You will want to saddle up early to help pack the gym tonight for what will surely be a barnburner at Fisher. The championship game, scheduled to start at 7pm, pits the Spartans against Paxton-Buckley-Loda, who knocked off tournament co-hosts GCMS 56-38 to reach the final.

A three-peat in the making, the Spartans have won the tournament the title past two seasons. The Panthers have the offense to keep that from happening tonight.

PBL had three players with double-digit scoring against the Lady Falcons. Mackenzie Bruns delivered 13 points, Hannah Schwarz added 12 and Baylee Cosgrove's hit 10 to lead the Panthers' offensive scoring.

Box Score
Team 1 5 10 15 16 - 46
Team 2 2 17 16 8 - 43

St. Joseph-Ogden: Ashlyn Lannert 3, Payton Jacob 7, Katie Cramer 14, Abby Behrens 6, Taylor Barnes 13 and Payton Vallee 3.

Villa Grove-Heritage: Kyleigh Block 17, Samantha Campbell 2, Aliya Holloman 20 and Jordyn Ray 4.

30 players receive SJO varsity football letters

Nineteen seniors earned varsity football letters this fall. Six juniors, four sophomores and one freshmen player were also recognized for their contributions during the 2019 season.

Brayden Weaver received this year's Most-Valuable-Player award.

Weaver appeared in varsity games during his football career with the Spartans. During that time he carried the ball 94 times for 540 yards. His longest run was a 52 yard jaunt in SJO's 38-14 win over Unity.

Brayden Weaver carries the football in the Spartans' home game against Central Catholic
Brayden carries the ball for the Spartans during their home game against Bloomington Central Catholic. This year's MVP, the senior ran for 104 yards against the Saints. On defense he was credited with three tackles in the 18-7 conference win. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks

Suffering a season-ending injury in the eight game of the season, his offensive stats boast 266 yards on 49 carries and four touchdowns.

A two-way player, Weaver was credited with 76 tackles, 49 of which were solo, at middle linebacker this season. He was also awarded the program's Defensive Award.

Drew Coursey and Jordan Kelly shared the team's Most-Improved-Player award.

Wearing #2 this season, Kelly, a 5-foot-10 wide receiver and strong safety, finished his only season of varsity football with 18 tackles and one interception.

Jordan Kelly
Jordan Kelly, one of this year's two Most-Improved-Players, runs a pass route against visiting St. Thomas More. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Coursey, who earned his stripes in his first season of varsity football this year, led SJO in sacks with three. The outside linebacker had 26 stops, including four solo tackles and seven total in the Spartans' 33-13 road loss to the Hawks of Prairie Central.

The Special Teams Award went to senior Payton Cain. Like Coursey and Kelly, this was his first and only varsity football season. The senior returned 16 kickoffs. Averaging 31.1 yards per return, he amassed 498 yards this season.

In SJO's home game against Pontiac on September 27, he ran one of his two punt returns back 66 yards - a career best - and another one for 19 yards.

Towering 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Blake Dable bagged the SJO Lineman Award.

In the five games he played on defense, Dable was credited with 15 tackles and two sacks, one against Unity and the other against Rantoul in week 2. On offense, Dable was key to opening up holes for the backfield and a solid wall protecting quarterback Crayton Burnett this season.

Sophomore Hayden Brazelton received the Scout Team Award.

Senior varsity lettermen: Ross Booker, Payton Cain, Trevon Carr, Max Chatterton, Brendan Cooperider, Drew Coursey, Blake Dable, Tristan Fuqua, Conner Hodge, Chance Izard, Jordan Kelly, Chayce Livingston, Jaden Miller, Blake Primmer, Luke Renfrew, Jarrett Stevenson, Brodie Sullivan, Brayden Weaver, and Sam Wesley.

Junior varsity lettermen: Crayton Burnett, Brady Buss, John Michael Ehmen, Zach Martinie, Xander Rieches and Max Shonkwiler.

Sophomore varsity lettermen: Coby Miller, Jett Morris, Keaton Nolan, and Ethan Vanliew.

Freshman varsity lettermen: Ty Pence

Throwback Thursday: Spartans place at 2012 Unity Invitational

St. Joseph-Ogden's Austin Upton wrestles Joliet Catholic's Michael Gruben
St. Joseph-Ogden's Austin Upton attempts to pin Joliet Catholic's Michael Gruben during their 170-pound championship bracket semifinal at the Unity Invitational on December 15, 2012. Upton won the match by fall at 3:03 and went on to win the title for his weight class. Two months later, the senior finished the 2012-13 season with a record of 45 wins and three losses and well-deserved fourth-place state medal. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

SJO Jacob Bowman wrestles STM's Alex Griffin.

St. Joseph-Ogden's Jacob Bowman sticks St. Thomas More's Alexandro Griffin during their 220-pound match. Bowman defeated Griffin in the first period by fall at 1:51. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Spartan wrestler David Trewyn at the Unity Invite

St. Thomas More's Collin Kelley tries to escape a hold by St. Joseph-Ogden's David Trewyn during their 126-pound match action at the 43rd installment of the Unity Invitational. Later Terwyn, who finished in 6th place, prevailed with a 15-8 victory. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Wesley Kibler

Freshman grappler Wesley Kibler (left) tries to fight off a single-leg takedown by Peotone's Tom Ruffino during their 195-pound match. Ruffino defeated Kibler 9-5 in their semifinal bout on Saturday afternoon. Despite missing the cut for the 2013 state finals, when his prep career ended in 2016, Kibler was the proud owner of one IHSA state title (2015), a runner-up silver medal (2016) and a fourth-place state medal from his efforts his sophomore season in 2014. He finished the 2012 Unity Invite in third place. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Jacob Bowman wrestles Nick Siciliano

SJO's Jacob Bowman shoots in on Rochester's Nick Siciliano during their 220-pound consolation quarterfinal match. Bowman, finished 6th after pinning Siciliano in the first period at 1:05. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Wolfersberger, Sarnecki earn cross country Most-Improved recognition

Twenty-eight St. Joseph-Ogden High School student-athletes earned varsity letters in cross country this fall. With the leadership of this year's six seniors, both the girls and boys programs competed at this year's Illinois High School Association state finals in Peoria.

Eric Poe heads to the finish line at state cross country
Senior Eric Poe races to the finish line at the 2019 IHSA state cross country meet at Detweiller Park on November 9. In addition to a varsityl letter, Poe was honored with the Rick Walden Most Consistent Award. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
The boys squad finished in 18th place with a score of 421 points. The top five scoring runners were Brandon Mattsey, Eric Poe, Charlie Mabry, Elijah Mock and Luke Stegall.

Earlier in the day at the state finals on November 9, senior Jillian Plotner led the SJO girls' to the program's fifth consecutive top ten team performance since 2014.

Nine members of both running programs received special team recognition at the end of the season.

Brandon Mattsey and Hannah Rajlich earned Most-Valuable-Player for their respective squads. Logan Wolfersberger was named the boys' Most-Improved Player and Malorie Sarnecki earned the same recognition for her efforts on the girls' squad.

Charlie Mabry received the Tim Mies Effort Award. Addie Allen won the Ashley Wright Effort Award. Eric Poe was the recipient of the Rick Walden Most Consistent Award and the Chelsea Blaase Most Consistent Award was given to sophomores Ava Knap & Ashlyn Lannert.

This year's varsity letter winners are seniors Ally Monk, Taddy Pettit, Jillian Plotner, Eric Poe, Hannah Rajlich and Josh Sexton.

Juniors: Hanna Eastin, Lukas Hutcherson, Brandon Mattsey, and Logan Wolfersberger.

Sophomores: Addie Allen, Braden Clampitt, Sidney Davis, Kailyn Ingram, Ava Knap, Ashlyn Lannert, Charlie Mabry, Elijah Mock, Hope Rajlich, Kendra Riddle, Malorie, Sarnecki, Taryn Sexton and Luke Stegall.

Freshmen: Kaytlyn Baker, Ethan Blackburn, Mary Hinrichs, Teagan Miller and Izzy Sexton.

Spartans pick up second win at GCMS-Fisher Tipoff

Katie Cramer looks for an open teammate while playing in the Spartans' third-place game during the Class 2A state finals back in February. Then a junior, she contributed 5 points and had three rebounds in SJO's 68-53 win over Hillsboro. Last night, the senior scored a pair of three-point shots in the open quarter Tuesday against Iroquois West at the GCMS-Fisher Tipoff to help St. Joseph-Ogden improve to 2-0 on the season. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
St. Joseph-Ogden picked up their second win of the season after beating Iroquois West 49-16 in last night's pool play at the GCMS-Fisher Tipoff in Fisher.

Ashlyn Lannert came off the bench to score a game-high 15 points for the Spartans. She also made three of her four free throw attempts.

Senior Katie Cramer hit a pair of threes in the opening frame and Payton Vallee added two buckets to give SJO at 10-2 lead at the start of the second period.

SJO held the Raiders to just five points in the first half. Despite making three of their five shots from the charity stripe, the Raiders (0-2) did not hit a shot from the field in the second period. Their scoring struggled continued into the third period with only four points from junior Shelby Johnson.

Meanwhile, Taylor Barnes matched Cramer's effort and nailed two treys to help the Spartans stretched their halftime lead over the Raiders to 19 points.

Iroquois West's offensive effort was led by Johnson with 10 points. Three of her teammates Emma Lopez, McKinley Tilstra and Abby Kochker contributed two points apiece in the loss.

The Lady Spartans, who won last year's title, are one win away from once again reaching the tournament's championship game. Thursday at 5:30pm, SJO will square off against Villa Grove-Heritage in their final pool contest.

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden 10 16 12 11 - 49
Iroquois West 2 3 4 7 - 16

St. Joseph-Ogden: Ashlyn Lannert 15, Nora Walden 2, Payton Jacob 2, Katie Cramer 6, Abby Behrens 2, Taylor Barnes 6, Alyssa Hamilton 9 and Payton Vallee 5.

Iroquois West: Emma Lopez 2, Shelby Johnson 10, McKinley Tilstra 2 and Abby Kochker 2.

Hamilton leads Spartans in first win of the season

Alyssa Hamilton led the St. Joseph-Ogden basketball squad with a team-high nine points in their season opener Monday night at the Fisher-GCMS Tipoff Classic. The Spartans, who finished their last season with a third-place state finish in February, held Fisher to just a pair of free throws in the third quarter, rolled past the Bunnies, 39-22.

Payton Jacob had eight points and junior Payton Vallee, back in action after a quick turnaround from the third-place state volleyball team, helped balance the offense contributing seven more points in the non-conference tournament game. In all, six SJO players scored in the season opener.

The Spartans, who finished their last season at 28-5, continues their pool play at the early season tournament tonight facing Iroquois West at 5:30pm.

Box Score
St. Joseph-Ogden 5 14 12 8 39
Fisher 6 8 2 6 22

St. Joseph-Ogden: Ashlyn Lannert 6, Payton Jacob 8, Katie Cramer 3, Taylor Barnes 6, Alyssa Hamilton 9 and Payton Vallee 7.

Fisher: Kylee Bishop 8, Sidney Hood 9, Elyssa Clanton 2, M. Sommer 1, and Leah McCoy 2.

Volleyball goes out with a victory, SJO finishes #3 in the state

Members of the St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team happily celebrate with their third-place trophy at Redbird arena during the awards ceremony for the Class 2A at the IHSA Girls Volleyball State Finals on Saturday. The Spartans defeated Rockford Lutheran in another exciting three-set match 25-11, 20-25, 25-23. SJO's 2019 run ended today with an impressive 37-5 record. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

They made them fight for every point, volleyball to play for third at state

St. Joseph-Ogden didn't back down.

The grit and teamwork they displayed during their state semifinal match against Mater Dei was undoubtedly one for the ages. Despite the 2-1 loss, SJO's impressive level of perseverance during the match is one future generations of Spartan volleyball players will need to embrace if they wish too ascend to the same stage.

Kennedi Burnett passes the ball during SJO's second set comeback against Mater Dei. The freshman outside hitter had 17 kills in the IHSA semifinal. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
Mater Dei head coach Chad Rakers left no doubt that his team had just finished an epic match.

"That St. Joseph-Ogden team was legit," he said in the post-match presser. "They are a real deal defending team.

The Spartans defensive effort yielded 55 digs during the marathon match. Rylee Stahl led the Spartans with 17 of those digs. Emily Bigger, with seven digs, distributed 32 assists.

"They were a force to be reckoned with," he said. "They made us fight for every point."

Kennedi Burnett led the SJO offense with 14 kills and nine digs. Katelyn Berry added another seven a emotional three-setter that ended 20-25, 25-23, 25-22 in favor of the Lady Knights.

After dropping the first set, the Spartans rallied back from a 8-point deficit to win the set two by two, forcing a deciding third one.

Like her players, Spartan head coach Abby McDonald was disappointed in the outcome, but none the less was proud of how her players fought tooth and nail in the second set as well as the third.

"There are not many teams on this kind of stage make that kind of comeback," McDonald said. "That's what those kids went out and did. They are heroes in my eyes. They're the number one team to us."

The emotional swings were palatable throughout the final set. Neither team backed down or buckled under the intense pressure. Mater Dei's largest lead, one that short-lived, was four points at 12-9.

SJO and the BMD were tied on the scoreboard six times. After the seventh, knotted at 21-all, Mater Dei nudged forward with three unanswered points en route to seize their berth in the title game tomorrow.

Like her players, Spartan head coach Abby McDonald was disappointed in the outcome, but none the less was proud of how her players fought tooth and nail in the second set and their effort in third.

"I am extremely proud of them. They may not feel that right now because it is not the dream and the goal they had," McDonald said. In the locker room she told the players to be proud of what they accomplished and to enjoy the ride. "There are so many schools that don't get this opportunity.

The Spartans will face a super scrappy Rockford Lutheran squad in the third-place contest at around 12:25p tomorrow.

The Lady Crusaders fell in two sets, 25-22, 29-27 to Bulldogs of St. Teresa who will square off with Mater Dei for the Class 2A title.

Mattsey leads SJO at state meet, XC boys finish 18th overall

On the final day of the fall, two days before Monday's nasty snow and ice blanketed central Illinois, the St. Joseph-Ogden harriers ran to an 18th place finish at the Illinois High School Association's State Cross Country Finals at Detweiller Park last Saturday.

Junior Brandon Mattsey, SJO's top runner, completed his race in 15 minutes and 48.78 seconds earning 28 points with his 43rd overall place finish.

Helping the Spartans edge out 19th place Unity, was senior Eric Poe, Charlie Mabry, Elijah Mock and Luke Stegall who earned 421 points. The Rockets finished with 423 points in the team standings.

It was Poe's final cross country event with the Spartans. In the senior's first and only state run, he clocked in at 16.27.75, finishing in 100th place. Nineteen runners later, Mabry concluded his race 13 seconds later at 16:40.19.

Mock and Stegall finished ten runners apart. Coming in at 17:02.52, Mock crossed finish line seven seconds ahead of Stegall's 17:09.99.

Juniors Logan Wolfersberger and Lukas Hutcherson also ran in the season finale. Not in the top five finishers for the Spartans, their results did not count toward overall the team score. Wolfersberger was 175th overall at 17:28.50 while Hutcherson ran over the finish line at 17:46.59 for 184th place.

Soccer seniors made a super effort this fall

Not quite ready for full-fledged membership into the Marvel Cinematic Universe nor recruited by Dr. Charles Xavier for enrollment in his School for Gifted Young Children, Kolton Batty, Luke Cohen, Brayden Grimsey and Zac Seeley, the four seniors on St. Joseph-Ogden's soccer team made a heroic effort to produce a winning soccer season this fall.

Batty, who was named All-Conference First Team, along with an Honorable Mention for Seeley, were recognized as All-Conference players by the Illini Prairie Conference. Seeley was also recognized as the 2019 squad's Most-Valuable-Player at the SJO Fall Sports Awards earlier this week.

The quartet of seasoned and skilled footballers did not reach the level of success they had hoped as a team but will most certainly take the lessons they learned about themselves through the various trials and tribulations they encountered this season to become worthy X-Men or members of the MCU.

The Spartans finished the season with a record of seven wins, 14 losses and four ties. The team lost by two goals or less in seven of their losses.

The four seniors played for a combined 6,038 minutes. Batty was punched in for 1,709 of them.

Back in September after a home game, I interviewed the four about their hero personas. Here is a glance at the soccer team's unsung heroes.

Spartan superhero Luke Cohen

Spartan superhero Brayden Grimsey

Spartan superhero Kolton Batty

Spartan superhero Zac Seeley

Batty makes First-Team all-conference soccer team

All-IPC soccer player Kolton Batty Last week, Kolton Batty was one of three St. Joseph-Ogden soccer team members awarded Illini Prairie all-conference honors. The senior was the Spartans' only First-Team recipient.

Batty, the team's top defensive specialist who appeared in 25 games for SJO this season, scored one goal during several brief forays on the Spartan offense. He scored the only goal in his team's 6-1 loss to Iroquois West at the Cornjerker Classic. He took a total of 13 shots this season.

Also earning all-conference honors were goal keeper Hunter Ketchum (second-team) and Zac Seeley (honorable mention).

Ketchum spent 1,541 minutes defending St. Joseph-Ogden's goal. Only a freshman, he inherited keeper duties from Mason Behrens and finished the season with 145 saves at an average of 6.3 per game.

Seeley, a three-year varsity veteran, scored 11 goals this season and 21 total during his four seasons with SJO. The senior notched a hattrick in the Spartans' 5-1 win over Schlarman in September and recorded 3,066 minutes on the pitch during his career.

SJO stuns Chicago Christian to win Elite 8 title

Just as her older sister in 2016, Kennedi Burrnett will play volleyball on the state's biggest stage under the bright lights of Redbird Arena. The opportunity would not have been possible had it not been for St. Joseph-Ogden's smoldering turnaround midway into the second set of their supersectional match against Chicago Christian last Friday.

Jenna Albrecht and Lacey Kaiser share the thrill of victory with head coach Abby McDonald
Seniors Jenna Albrecht (left) and Lacey Kaiser celebrate their supersectional title win with head coach Abby McDonald.

After dropping the first set 25-15, the Spartans found their groove after a gritty 25-23 second set and playing the brand of volleyball that fueled 20 consecutive match wins, took the third set and the match, 25-16.

"We came out a little hesitant," said Burnett, who like her sister Abby, will play on a final four Spartan volleyball team for the coveted Class 2A state title. "But then we just jumped back into it. We knew this is what we were waiting for all year. We just kept it together."

Burnett tallied a team-high 11 kills. She also came up big defensively with nine digs and two blocks for the Spartans.

"I think my nerves got into my head a little bit," said outside hitter Katelyn Berry. She was confident that her teammates would do what was needed to get the win, but to secure the win she had to step up her game. "I knew for my team I had to make a change."

The timidity felt by the Spartans in the opening set was both palatable and warranted by the way the Chicago Christian's six-foot, one-inch outside hitter Lia Moore was pounding the ball into the back court. The Michigan State recruit, who will become a Spartan herself next fall, couldn't miss.

Another six-footer for the Knights, Logan Grevengoed and the 5-foot-11 Delanie Grevengoed formed a wall above the tape the Spartan could not penetrate easily.

"I thought our opponent did a great job of keeping us out of system," said head coach Abby McDonald. The pace of the rallies was faster than what she and her assistant coaches saw in the film they had at their disposal. "It was really fast and intense. We were on our heels on defense."

Libero Rylee Stahl celebrates a block with teammates.
Rylee Stahl celebrates a point for the Spartans. The senior libero had a team a team-high 19 digs to lead SJO into the Class 2A final four. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
Leading up to a 17-all score in the second set, the score between was tied seven times with the Knights scoring the go-ahead point.

On the eight tie, SJO surged ahead ticking off three unanswered points to get to a 20-17 tilt before Knights' head coach Karen Van Assen called a timeout.

McDonald used the break to inspire her players.

"She just told us to forget about that set. We've been there before and we know how to come back from that," Berry recounted. She was held to just six kills by the Knights. "We know how to come back from that. A new set is a new set."

Holding on to win the second set would put the final match outcome in SJO's favor. Prior to the supersectional, out of the seven three-setters this season, SJO took the match in all but two. The Spartans lost to St. Thomas More and St. Teresa, who will also play a semifinal on Friday, in deciding third sets. SJO won their last five extended matches and the odds were dramatically in their favor if they finish the second set with a win.

"Honestly, I felt Katelyn did really well," senior Stephanie Trame said about Berry's overall performance. "She had a great attitude when she was blocked. She didn't let it get in her head."

Trame was contributed seven of the SJO's 34 match kills.

"We had more energy in the second set and started playing as a team," she added. "We found ourselves."

With their confidence continuing to swell and the combined defensive leadership of Rylee Stahl and Emily Bigger, St. Joseph-Ogden pulled out the second set, 25-23. At libero, Stahl keep the ball in play with a team-high 19 digs. Bigger had 16 and made 26 passes. In one of their best defensive efforts of the season, SJO players combined for 70 digs in the three-setter.

Payton Vallee bouyed the Spartans on both offense and defense as well. In addition to her two digs, the junior along with senior Lacey Kaiser, who notched 8 digs, were co-leaders in blocks at the net with three apiece. Vallee also put away six well-placed kills in the supersectional effort.

Emily Bigger and Stephanie Trame get their hands up
Emily Bigger and Stephanie Trame get their hands up to deflect a shot by Chicago Christian's Olivia Ingelse during first set action on Friday at Chicago Christian High School. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
"We went into the third set with a lot of momentum," McDonald said. "We were in their heads offensively and defensively. They were having to think about every touch on the ball."

Her team jumped out to a modest 4-1 lead to open the final set. Chicago Christian worked their way out of the deficit to tie the game at 4-4 thanks to an ace.

SJO immediately got a sideout and took the lead. They pieced together a five-point run forcing the Knights to burn a timeout staring 9-5 deficit.

When the action resumed, the Spartans continued to exploited the hole it found in the hard-hitting Chicago Christian armor and increased the scoring gap by eight points to 19-11.

"We've got three kids that can swing. We've got a defense that is quick and aggressive," McDonald said about the momentum shift. "I just thought that once we got going and our kids gained some confidence and knew we could compete with them. I knew we could pull it out."

Eleven serves later, the SJO contingent - players, fans and parents - were celebrating a well-deserved victory.

"There are just so many emotions right now," Burnett said. "I'm just so excited. I'm blessed to be with all these people on the court and I couldn't be happier."

Memory Monday: St. Joseph-Ogden wins state semifinal over Althoff Catholic

With this year's SJO volleyball team heading to Redbird Arena later this week to once again compete for the Illinois High School Association's state champion trophy, today's Memory Monday looks back to the volleyball program's final four opener three years ago.

Parker Francisco (left) and Bree Trimble celebrates a point for the Spartans during game one of their state semifinal contest against Althoff Catholic back on November 11 in 2016. The Crusaders jumped out a 5-0 lead and never looked back in the set to spanking SJO, 25-10. However, Francisco, who would finish the first day's battle with 10 kills and 5 digs, and the St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team let loose and rallied back to take the next two sets advancing to the Class 2A title game against Eureka.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
St. Joseph-Ogden senior Park Francisco

Jannah Mullen celebrates a third set point for SJO
Oh, yeah!
Jannah Mullen celebrates a point for the Spartans in the final set against the Crusaders. After dropping an ugly first set to Althoff, the Spartans take the final two 25-18, 25-8. Mullen served the team's only ace of the game and finished the Friday semifinal credited with three digs.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)


Bree Trimble passes the ball to the front row in game one. The sophomore contributed nine digs and two assists in the Friday afternoon victory three years ago today. The Spartans shook off the first set loss and won the next two to take the match and improve their season record to 31-3.

(Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

SJO two-sport athlete Bree Trimble

SJO student fans cheer for their team during set 2.
Members of St. Joseph-Ogden's Maroon Platoon cheer for the volleyball team during second set action. With only four kills in the first set, the student cheering section didn't have much to cheer about. However, their team stormed back to pound 32 bombs in the last two sets to punch their ticket into Saturday's title match against the Eureka Hornets. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Head coach Abby McDonald Senior Kylie Michael celebrates a point for the Spartans
Left: SJO head coach Abby McDonald realigns her players on the floor during set one of SJO's match against Althoff. Right: Senior Kylie Michael leaps with excitement after another point for SJO. Michael led the Spartan offense with at match-high 18 kills and 12 digs. A redshirt freshman during the 2018 season at Eastern Illinois University, she played 68 sets to finish the season with 132 kills along with 115 digs and 26 blocks. (Photos: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Jannah Mullen makes a dig for SJO in 2016
Jannah Mullen lunges to make a dig and keep the ball in play during second set action. She was one of six seniors on the 2016 squad that would go on to place second in Class 2A. Mullen continued her volleyball career at Lakeland College where as a sophomore last year she was named second-team All-Region. She led the team with 520 digs, 19th in NJCAA Division I last November. Check the gallery, online for a limited time only, for more than 100 other photos from this match here: PhotoNews RAW Collection (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Parents and SJO fans cheer for their team during at timeout
St. Joseph-Ogden parents and fans cheer for their team during a timeout in the second set. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Parker Francisco goes up for a block at the net
Reaching for greatness

Parker Francisco leaps above the net to block a Eureka kill attempt. The two-sport athlete's leadership was key in the Spartans advancing to the Class 2A title match on Saturday at Redbird Arena.

Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Bree Trimble and Kylie Michael celebrate with hugs
Spartans Bree Trimble and Kylie Michael share a hug after the conclusion of their third set against the Hornets and with the realization that in 24 hours SJO will be playing for the program's first-ever volleyball state championship title on Saturday. For a limited time only, see more than 100 photos from this match and the championship game later this week at PhotoNews RAW Collection. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Spartan basketball opens at Tip-Off on November 18

Ten days from tomorrow the St. Joseph-Ogden girls basketball team open their 2019-20 season at the Lady Falcon & Bunnie Tip-Off Classic on Monday, November 18. Here is the schedule and locations for the early season tourney.

Spartans runners head to state

Both the boys and girls cross country teams at St. Joseph-Ogden will be in the running for this year's Class 1A IHSA State Finals on Saturday.

The men's squad finished third in the team standings after last Saturday's sectional meet in Effingham. SJO's top five runners accumulated 158 points behind Urbana U-High (96 points) and sectional champions Monticello with 42 points.

Junior Brandon Mattsey finished the course at 16.56 and Eric Poe clocked in at 17.16. Both runners turned in times nearly minute slower than their times near the end of September due to the muddy, marsh like conditions along the course.

"Our coach had us run without socks," said Poe, a second-year veteran. He was the 22nd runner to cross the finish line. "It made it much easier to run with just spikes."

Saturday will be a first Poe, who will be running in his first state cross country meet. He excited about the opportunity to run against some of the top runners in the state.

"Every team there, every runner is high quality," he said. "The quality of the runners that will be there, that's what I'm excited about."

The senior is glad he left football, he played his frosh and sophomore season, as his fall sport and jumped into the sport of cross country.

"I don't regret the decision," he said with pride. "I'm very thankful for the coach I have and my teammates who have been helping me along. It is not an easy sport."

Also running for the Spartans at the sectional meet was Charlie Mabry, who turned a time of 17.40. Three other runners - Elijah Mock (17.50), Logan Wolfersberger (17.52) and Luke Stegall (17.53) - finished under the 18 minute mark. Lukas Hutcherson was the last St. Joseph-Ogden off the course at 18.49.

The Spartans will run their final race of the season at Detweiller Park in Peoria on Saturday. The girls race starts at 9 a.m.. An hour later boys race starts at 10 a.m..

If you plan to head to Peoria for the state meet, here are the bib number of SJO runners to look out for: 702 — Ethan Blackburn (Fr.), 703 — Braden Clampitt (So.), 704 — Zach Dahman (Fr.), 705 — Lukas Hutcherson (Jr.), 706 — Charlie Mabry (So.), 707 — Brandon Mattsey (Jr.), 708 — Elijah Mock (So.), 709 — Taddy Pettit (Sr.), 710 — Eric Poe (Sr.), 711 — Josh Sexton (Sr.), 712 — Luke Stegall (So.) and 713 — Logan Wolfersberger (Jr.).

The SJO girls will be wearing the following numbers for their race: 253 — Addie Allen (So.), 254 — Kaytlyn Baker (Fr.), 255 — Sidney Davis (So.), 256 — Hanna Eastin (Jr.), 257 — Kailyn Ingram (So.), 258 — Ava Knap (So.), 259 — Ashlyn Lannert (So.), 260 — Ally Monk (Sr.), 261 — Jillian Plotner (Sr.), 262 — Hannah Rajlich (Sr.), 263 — Hope Rajlich (So.), 264 — Kendra Riddle (So.), 265 — Malorie Sarnecki (So.) and 266 — Taryn Sexton (So.).

St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball squad cracks Elite 8 with 2-1 sectional championship victory

Herscher staved off four consecutive match points in the third and final set, closing the gap to 24-23, before Spartan Kennedi Burnett sealed the deal for the St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team at the Class 2A Watseka sectional plaque last night.

Burnett, a sophomore outside hitter, capped the night with a double-double (17 kills, 10 digs) to help the St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team extend their season two more days and one match, at the very least. After a grueling 25-19, 12-25, 25-23 victory, SJO carried home their second postseason sectional title in three years and advanced to the Palos Heights supersectional.

SJO volleyball senior Class of 2020
St. Joseph-Ogden's magical season is powered by nine seniors on the 14 spot roster that makes up this year's volleyball squad. The Class of 2020 players include (left to right) Katelyn Berry, Lacey Kaiser, Lindsey Aden, Stephanie Trame, Rylee Stahl, Emily Bigger, Jenna Albrecht, Kenly Taylor and Anna Wentzloff. After at 2-1 win over Herscher on Wednesday evening, the Spartans, who will face Chicago Christian on the Knights' home court for the supersectional title, are just one win away from reaching the Illinois High School Association state finals on November 15-16. (PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The Spartan win closed the door the Tigers' storybook season after their second-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history. In one of their best seasons in more than a half decade, Herscher (32-6) secured the school’s first regional title since 2012 and a share of the Illinois Central Eight Conference crown with a squad staffed similar to SJO with 10, instead of nine, seniors.

Bringing her A-game to the hardwood, Emily Bigger's passing allowed the Spartan hitting crew of Burnett, senior Katelyn Berry and junior Payton Vallee to stay aggressive enough to smash the ball past their tenacious opponents. Bigger, also a senior and had six digs, was credited with 40 assists.

Berry's vicious swing contributed 10 kills to the Spartan effort. Vallee added another 11. Lacey Kaiser, another senior on the crew, contributed six to round out the attack from the front line.

Another senior, Rylee Stahl, one of the team's three defensive stars, logged 17 digs.

Wednesday night's three-setter win was St. Joseph-Ogden's 35th of the season and kicked their win streak one tick to 20. The last time head coach Abby McDonald won a Sweet Sixteen title, her team placed second at Redbird Arena in the state finals.

Next in their path to a state finals appearance, the Spartans will lock swords with the 32 win, five loss Knights of Chicago Christian Friday evening in Palos Heights. The supersectional match is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. on their opponent's home court.

After their three-set regional semifinal opener against Nobel/Butler, the Knights have given up a total of just 25 points in two matches since then. Chicago Christian also received a bye, courtesy of a double-forfeit, as a result of the Chicago Public School strike last month.

The location suits McDonald just fine who has repeatedly said all season that this year's squad, who are one win away from reaching the IHSA state finals, plays better on the road than at home.

Two of the Spartans' four losses were at home. Of the four, the only team that remains in the postseason is St. Teresa, who faces Orion in the Farmington Supersectional. Champaign Central, St. Thomas More and Mahomet-Seymour have been eliminated from the postseason brackets.

St. Joe Santa 5k is set for December 21

If you live in St. Joseph, don't be surprised if you wake up four days before Christmas and see hundreds of fit-looking Santas running through the village. No, these Kris Kringle knockoffs won't be looking for lost reindeer or handing out early holiday presents to those who've been extra nice this year. The red shirts will be running in the 2019 St. Joe Santa 5K run/walk on December 21.

Runners start out on the 2018 Ho-ho-ho 5K in 2018. Re-dubbed the St. Joe Santa 5k this will be the second installment of the Christmas holiday season race. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Last year's race attracted just over 300 runners and organizers hope that number will grow. The St. Joe Santa 5k Run/Walk is a non-profit organization whose main mission is to raise money to benefit local charities through various health and fitness events.

When runners pick up their race day packets, each participant will receive a Santa hat, Santa beard and a red race shirt to wear while running the course. Each runner will also receive a commemorative medal as they cross the finish line.

The event, organized by veteran runners Brenda Hixson and Max Painter, is slated to start time at 9 am. The registration fee is $25.00 for each runner.

For the latest information runners and spectators can find more information on the St. Joe 5K Facebook group page or on the official race website at Online registration is going on now here: St. Joe 5K.

SJO volleyball defeats Seneca in two sets, team advances to sectional title match

The St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team is back in familiar territory. For a second straight season the girls team will play for a sectional championship award.

The Spartans (32-4) defeated Seneca 25-17, 25-11, making a reservation as one of the two teams to play for the Watseka title. The other team, Herscher, will square off with SJO at 6pm at Watseka.

Last year, SJO fell in the title match to eventual state bronze medalists St. Thomas More, 25-22, 25-13. The Sabers also knocked Abby McDonald's 2017 squad out of the postseason after a 2-0 win for the regional title.

On Monday, sophomore hitter Kennedi Burnett led the SJO offense against Lady Irish with 12 kills and four digs. Heather Stahl added another seven digs to help her team who have not dropped a match since September 26 and who are enjoying a 17-match win streak.

Senior passer Emily Bigger had 18 assist and six digs to help put the Spartans just two matches away from a possible return to Illinois High School Association Class 2A state tournament. Three season ago the SJO volleyball team, who went 31-4, finished the season as division's runner up in 2016.

St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball wins regional title on Halloween

In high school volleyball it is pretty hard to beat a good team twice in a row.

The trick for St. Joseph-Ogden was to win the Oakwood regional title on Thursday and do it again against Monticello, who they played a week earlier in the last match of the Illini Prairie Conference regular season. The Spartans got the treat they were looking for and the first of a few more to come in the postseason after clipping the Sages in two sets, 25-17, 25-14.

SJO setter Emily Bigger
Setter Emily Bigger passes the ball during St. Joseph-Ogden's first set against Monticello at the Oakwood Regional on Thursday. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)
The hard work the team has put in showed throughout the season showed in SJO's seemingly stress free, effortless play. One of things that senior Lacey Kaiser says the team had to do reach their currently level of play was talk more.

"Our communication has improved since the beginning," she said. "It was hard for a lot us because not many of us are super outgoing."

Kaiser led the team with three aces from the service line. She padded her stats with three kills and a trio of digs against the Sages.

"I believe in my teammates," she said. "If we get down, I know we can pull through and get back to win."

The Spartans were up 19-9 in the first set, but didn't close it out right away. Monticello dug in their heals and won eight of the next 13 points before SJO shut the door.

"I think we have definitely improved on capitalizing on certain points, and pushing whenever we should," said fellow senior Rylee Stahl. "We've worked a lot on siding out on the next point and not giving teams consecutive points in a row."

The Sages took a 4-1 lead in the second set before the Spartans reestablished control of the momentum going up 7-5 behind the pile driving swings of Katelyn Berry, Payton Vallee and sophomore Kennedi Burnett.

Berry finished the contest with a team-high nine kills and five digs. Vallee, a junior and outside hitter, contributed four kills and Burnett, who played strong defensively, had four kills and 10 digs.

Thursday's victory would not have been possible if it wasn't for the passing accuracy of Emily Bigger who took credit for 23 assists. She also scored a rare kill and contributed seven of the team's 45 digs.

"I think this win means a lot, but we are not super, super, super excited about it because it is just regionals," said Stahl, who like the rest of team, has her sights set on the king size of postseason candy, a state trophy. "We have a lot more to accomplish this season."

While teammate Lacey Kaiser (on the left) looks on while teammate Emily Bigger holds the team's new regional plaque for Payton Vallee to kiss. After beating Monticello 2-0, the Spartans advance in the IHSA volleyball postseason to face Seneca on Monday. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The Spartans advance to Monday's sectional semifinal against Seneca at Watseka.

The Lady Irish defeated Manteno in both sets 25-22 to win the Peotone Regional. On Tuesday, they dropped the first set of their semifinal to Manteno 20-25 and came back to take the last two, 25-21, 25-21. The two teams are scheduled to start at 6pm.

It will be back to work analyzing the Lady Irish for SJO, but in the mean time, Kaiser and the Spartans will savor the new regional hardware.

"It feels awesome," Kaiser said. "We knew we wanted to get this."