QUINCY -- Rich Meyer approached captains Hannah Peters and Molly Penn in mid-October with the idea for a change in the lineup for the Quincy Notre Dame volleyball team.
Peters admits she had her doubts.
Back problems forced Peters to move from hitter to libero late in the season, and with the QND Tournament coming up for the last weekend of the season, Meyer wanted to shake up the lineup even more and put two junior varsity players, sophomores Taylor Keck and Meredith Siebers, into the rotation.
"When he first told us, Molly and I were like, ‘Are you sure?'" Peters said. "We know Coach makes a lot of good decisions, but we didn't think it was the smart thing to do. We had our team that had been on the floor almost the entire season. It was like, ‘Why are you doing this so late? If you wanted this to happen, why didn't you do it at the beginning of the season?'
"We just had to trust Coach Meyer, and we had to trust the girls who were in the lineup."
That trust has paid off.
QND won four of five games in its own tournament, and it has won five straight postseason games to earn a spot in the Class 2A state tournament this weekend. The Raiders (32-8) will play at noon Friday against Newton in the semifinals at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Meyer can sit back and laugh now.
"I think my captains questioned my integrity and thought I was a dummy," he said with a smile.
The injury to Peters started a domino effect that forced Meyer's hand, but he admits he already had been pondering making the moves anyway.
"For us to be stronger, we had to have our best defenders on the floor," he said. "I wasn't going to put Hannah on the bench, so I wanted her to be on the court handling the ball as much as possible."
Moving Peters to libero, however, created two holes in the lineup. Keck moved into Peters' outside hitting position, while senior Erika Eaton took Keck's spot when she rotated to the back row.
Meanwhile, Meyer says the team's blocking has improved "25 to 30 percent" in the last three weeks with Siebers on the floor.
Both Siebers and Keck were apprehensive when they learned about their new roles the night before the QND Tournament.
"It was exciting, but at the same time, when you put a new team together, you worry if you're going to be successful," Siebers said.
"There was a little fear, but the seniors are really encouraging to us," Keck said. "They know what we're capable of."
Meyer gives credit to the varsity veterans for making the changes work.
"It's hard for a stranger to come into the lineup," he said. "You have to make sure the chemistry is there to make sure that a move like that is valid, because if it's not, they see it quickly.
"I gave this a lot of thought before I executed it. It's kind of like when you put a puzzle together. Sometimes they have jagged edges, and they can't fit together, and sometimes they have nice rounded edges, and you can put it together real easy. I thought this came together really easy."
The sophomores have adapted quickly.
Siebers led QND in blocks with four each against Riverton in the sectional and Eureka in the super-sectional. Sophomore Sydney Hummert has led the Raiders in kills during the postseason, but Keck had eight kills against Eureka and four kills and three blocks against Pleasant Plains in the sectional final.
"The speed's a little faster, but it wasn't that hard to adapt," Keck said.
"The sets are a lot lower, so you have less time to get there (to block)," Siebers said.
They've gone from the junior varsity to the state tournament in less than a month.
"It kind of doesn't feel real," Siebers said.
Even Peters admits a trip to the state tournament seemed unlikely last month.
"Not with all the changes we had," she said. "Usually the teams who go to state tournaments have been playing together for so long, and we just kind of switched it all up at the end. I guess it worked."