Triad's 2012 volleyball season ended on a tough note with a 25-10, 25-6 loss to two-time defending state champion Mater Dei on Oct. 23 in the semifinals of the Class 3A Mater Dei Regional.
Triad finished with a 19-13 record. Mater Dei, which went on to beat Breese Central in the regional final, took a 34-4 record into Tuesday's match against Benton in the semifinals of the Murphysboro Sectional.
"Mater Dei was on and they play hard," Triad coach Lee Coakley said. "The weapons we tried to use just didn't work because they're so quick.
"All across the board, they have girls that can jump and hit hard. They're accurate and they swing for the fences, so you have to have really good digs.
"We have our strengths here and there. But when all their girls are good all the way around, that's hard to overcome."
The Knights advanced to the Mater Dei match with a 27-29, 25-15, 25-20 win over Salem on Oct. 22.
"We won, but I wasn't exactly satisfied with how we played," Coakley said. "We made a lot of mistakes.
"At the end of the season, I hoped we would be a little better, more like the Belleville East match (a two-game victory on Oct. 18), where our hitting and passing were both on. Salem brought more against us than we expected."
Triad was 8-2 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, with both losses to Highland.
"We performed well at the conference level," Coakley said. "Our goal is to win it, but we did get second place. You want to improve on last year, and last year we were 21-11, so we were only two wins off tying that record."
Triad will lose four players to graduation - right side hitter Abby Hall, defensive specialist Kellie Hanser, libero Melanie King and middle hitter Holly Richter.
"Each of those seniors provided leadership in their own way, so we hope to fill those spots next year," Coakley said. "With the way they played and practiced, they set the standard for future players."
Several players will return with varsity experience.
"The Henderson twins (Ciara, a junior outside hitter, and Michaela, a junior setter) are very strong," Coakley said. "(Sophomore) Emma Skubish improved greatly from last season with her power and her confidence. (Junior) Lauren Hall improved in the back row. Allison Richter is a freshman, but she scored a lot of points against all of the teams we played.
"Our freshman girls was also strong, so those girls will move up to the JV and we hope we can cycle some of them onto the varsity. We didn't have a lot of sophomores this year, so our junior class will be pretty thin."