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EDWARDSVILLE - The boys volleyball team at Edwardsville High had a successful return to the court on Monday evening, taking a hard-fought 24-26, 26-24, 25-18 win over Belleville East in their 2021 season opener at Lucco-Jackson Gym.

The Tigers' 2020 season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, which had started the month before around the country and the world, and it was their opening match, while the Lancers were playing their fourth. Edwardsville did play a very good match, and were able to adjust on the fly.

"We were able to get back and compete against a team that has already had an opportunity to play three more matches than we had," said Tigers head coach Scott Smith, "so it was good. East had some really strong servers, and they attacked well, also. We showed an ability to adjust to our mistakes, and did very well."

Senior Preston Weaver used his speed very well, and showed a capacity of getting to balls very well and set up the hitters for some good shots.

"Preston showed an ability to get to passes with his speed," Smith said, "navigate the court, to get to the balls and setting our hitters up."

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The most important thing was that the Tigers were back on the court and playing a match for the first time in nearly two years. There was a very special atmosphere inside the gym during the match, and it helped contribute to a very well-played match on both sides.

"I don't know who was more excited to be back, me or the boys," Smith said. "But I was darn well sure I was overly excited," he said with a laugh. "The energy was high in the gym for sure with the spectators, players, coaches, officials. It was really cool to see our new jerseys being worn on the court for the first time."

The Tigers' height will be a strong suit for the club this season, as all but one of the players stand at six feet or taller. And the team is starting to mesh together very well. and it's a sign that there's good things to come on the court in 2021.

"We're bigger than we've been for awhile," Smith said, "Of the returning players, all of them but one is over six feet tall. They played their best volleyball since tryouts, and the guys are really growing with their comfort on the court with each other."

Evan Reed led the Tigers with 12 kills, Miles Bell led with three blocks, one of them a solo, and Weaver had 30 assists and 12 points on the night to go with a pair of aces.

The Tigers open their season 1-0 and host Belleville West on Thursday evening in a match that starts at 5:30 p.m. Smith was very happy with his team's performance and looks forward to seeing what the season unfolds.

"All the players impressed me today," Smith said, "and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."Dan Brannan also contributed to this story.

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