BREESE — Lisa Timmermann is flattered by the comparison.
A 1988 graduate of Mater Dei High, she was the starting setter on the Knights' first state volleyball championship team the previous fall.
So it is inevitable that the sports-crazy fans of Clinton County will liken her to her daughter Jessie, the team's current setter.
But in reality, the two aren't even close in skill level.
"She's way better than I ever was," Lisa said. "By a lot."
Jessie, a 5-foot-11 junior, is hoping to duplicate her mom's feat when she leads Mater Dei into the Class 2A state tournament this weekend at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Mater Dei (30-9) will face St. Joseph Ogden (36-4) in a semifinal at noon on Friday. Rockford Lutheran (35-5) and Decatur St. Teresa (35-5) meet in the other semifinal at 1:30 p.m. The winners face off for the state crown at 1:55 p.m. on Saturday.
Jessie will try and become the second state volleyball champion in her family, which resides in Germantown.
But win or lose this weekend, mom has already surrendered the title of best setter in the household.
"At a match the other day, one of the parents came up to me and told me that I taught her well," Lisa said. "I had to laugh. Maybe the genes helped a little, but she didn't learn much from me."
Lisa was no slouch. With her running the offense, the Knights won 32 of 35 matches on the way to beating Riverton 16-14, 15-3 in the title contest 32 years ago. The former Lisa Sterkis went on to play for two years at Kaskaskia College in nearby Centralia.
But Jessie has her own impressive credentials as well. She has set a school record for most assists in a season for the second year in a row with 898 after an 872-helper campaign last year.
Most importantly, her ability to pick apart defenses has played a key role in Mater Dei’s postseason run. The Knights, who will be gunning for their eighth state title, have won six in a row and nine of 10.
"Getting a setter like her makes all the difference in the world," said coach Chad Rakers, whose father Fred captured six state titles as a coach, including the school's first with Lisa.
Jessie has handed out 30 or more assists five times this season. She has 13 or more in every single match, which is even more impressive considering 26 of the Knights' wins have come in straight sets.
"She's just so super-smart," said sophomore hitter Tori Mohesky, who leads the team with 311 kills. "The best part is she knows how to take things into her own hands."
Sophomore hitter Riley Kleber has also benefited from Jessie's skills.
"Best in the state,” Kleber said. "Or at least the best I’ve ever seen."
Jessie is a student of the game. She will break down tape of the opposition and form a game-plan in her head. Through preparation and pre-game observation, she goes into a match with a well-thought plan of action.
"You can't teach being smart like that and knowing where to go with the ball," Chad Rakers said. "It's just a skill she has."
Jessie is a threat on both sides of the net as well. She has 131 kills and 38 aces.
That all-around ability might be hereditary. Lisa remembers Jessie sitting on the couch and bouncing a volleyball up and down at age 5. Jessie began her career as a libero on the club and grade school level in the fourth grade. After two years, she moved into the setter position, much to the delight of Lisa.
"Since I was young, we'd play volleyball outside in my driveway," Jessie recalled. "My mom, my dad (Ron), my brother (Jake) — I just learned from everyone."
Lisa realizes that the sport has changed dramatically since her playing days. So she is not about to offer Jessie any advice.
"It's just so much faster, it's totally different," Lisa said. "I'm not sure I'd be able to do the things they do nowadays."
Jessie has always possessed natural leadership and sharp decision-making skills. She honed her game with some help from Katie Haake, a neighbor and former babysitter, who racked up 1,372 assists in running the Knights' offense from 2014-2016.
Timmermann is also a basketball player at the Breese-based school, but volleyball is her first love. She hopes to continue her career in college.
A straight-A student, whose lone high school non-A was a B in biology last year, Jessie would like to make her mother proud this weekend under the bright lights of the final four.
"She told me just to get out there and have fun," Jessie said. "That's what we’re going to do."