The Ozarks’ four state volleyball representatives will all be playing for 3rd place trophies on Saturday at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
Ozark puts up admirable fight against Class 4 heavyweights
Good, but not quite good enough.
That was theme for Ozark on Friday as the Tigers, making their eighth straight final four appearance, went 1-5 in Class 4 round-robin play.
Ozark had its moments – earning a split with Francis Howell in the opening match then playing St. Teresa’s Academy to a competitive 25-23, 25-21 loss in the nightcap – but there was little room for error against Missouri’s top Class 4 teams.
“We were going against quality opponents today,” said Ozark coach Adeana Brewer “I think Class 4 is pretty stacked with the four teams that were represented here. It was a tough day for us.
“We played well for stints, but when you’re playing quality opponents like we were playing today, you can’t play for stints at a time. You have to play 25 good points.”
Ozark’s young roster – the Tigers rotated in five sophomores regularly – helped keep the Tigers competitive for most of the day. The lone blemish came in a 25-15 second-set loss to a Lafayette (Wildwood) team that, Brewer said, always seems primed to face Ozark.
“I felt like we were right there,” Brewer said. “Besides the second set of the Lafayette game, which I think (Lafayette) just steps up their level of performance when they’re across from the net from us, I felt like we played competitive volleyball. We had really great energy, at times.
“But when you’re against opponents like this, you have to have it from Point Zero to Point 25. We just had a hard time finding that consistency. But I saw parts of it, which is encouraging. We just have to learn to expect that and demand that excellence all the time.”
The Tigers had a team attack percentage of fewer than 20 percent in their first two matches. That bumped up to a reasonable 25 percent in the final match against St. Teresa’s Academy, when the Tigers got 12 kills from junior Macey Putt and 11 kills from sophomore Kaitlyn Vorhies.
Putt led Ozark on the day with 25 total kills. Brewer praised the play of Vorhies and junior OH Sidney Branson, who combined for 31 kills over the six sets.
Sophomore Kennedee Anderson, who missed a large portion of the season with a wrist injury, tallied 58 total assists, including 25 in the opening match against Francis Howell. Senior Molly Taylor had a team-high 27 digs on the day, including 12 against St. Teresa’s Academy.
Ozark will face St. Teresa’s Academy, which also beat the Tigers 2-0 in the regular season, in the Class 4 3rd place match at 6 p.m. Saturday. Francis Howell faces Lafayette in the Class 4 finals at 7:30 p.m.
Rogersville goes 0-for in Class 3
Rogersville began its day 0-2 – dropping both sets to a 13-loss St. Francis Borgia team – and the Wildcats never recovered in their first state appearance since 2010.
It was a costly start as the Wildcats later fell victim to a pair of 30-win teams in Lutheran South (25-18, 25-20) and Pleasant Hill (28-26, 25-19).
“Balls were dropping that don’t normally drop against us,” said Wildcats coach Tammy Miller. “It gets you out of your system. We were quiet, which caused problems. We’re normally a pretty loud and aggressive team. We kind of went into a shell and didn’t attack the way we normally do.”
Rogersville had a chance to win in both sets against Borgia, but ended up with a 25-21, 25-23 loss.
Offense was hard to come by all day for the Wildcats, who enter Friday 33-4 overall and winners of 21 straight matches.
Rogersville’s attack percentage was under 17 percent in all three matches, including an ugly 4.5 percent output against Lutheran South. It was well below the standard of Rogersville’s season average: 29 percent.
“We got into a little bit of a rhythm that first set against Pleasant Hill. It was better and then we just couldn’t maintain it,” Miller said. “I’m proud of my girls for getting here, but hopefully we can regroup and go out a winner tomorrow.”
Senior Hannah Hendrickson tallied 11 kills, 22 assists and 18 digs over six sets. Freshman Birdie Hendrickson led the Wildcats in kills (17) and digs (27), while setter McKenna Miller issued 13 assists.
Sophomore Gabrielle Massengale added 14 kills.
Rogersville takes on St. Francis Borgia in the Class 3 3rd place game at 3 p.m. Saturday. Pleasant Hill and Lutheran South follow in the Class 3 title game.
Mountain View-Birch Tree/Liberty comes up short in Class 2 tiebreaker set
Liberty came the closest of any Ozarks team to making the finals. All the Eagles had to do was beat Hermann, a team it split with in round-robin play about five hours earlier, in a decisive winner-take-all tiebreaker set.
The Eagles were unable to clinch a chance at their second state championship in three seasons, as Hermann dominated the tiebreaker set, 25-15.
It was a down end for an overall up-and-down day by Liberty. After splitting with Hermann (21-25, 29-27) to open their day, the Eagles were soundly defeated by St. Pius X Festus (25-12, 25-13) in their next match.
Liberty bounced back and squeezed out a close 2-0 win (25-20, 25-23) against a St. Paul Lutheran (Concordia) team that finished 0-6.
“I don’t feel like we were consistent at all today. We were kind of sluggish, kind of out of it,” said Liberty coach Shari Tune. “They know coming in, it’s the final four and everyone wants it as bad as you. You gotta hang in.”
“In the first half of the season, we struggled finding the intensity and desire to go out and just absolutely dominate. I thought in the postseason we came out strong and kind of gotten over that hurdle. Today, I saw that old theme.”
Few outside of Howell County expected the Eagles to make it to Cape Girardeau this year. But after upsetting 31-1-1 overall Strafford in the sectional round, Tune knows it was an opportunity to be savored.
“We’re very thankful to be here,” Tune said. “We had to earn being here. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, so getting here was huge for us. It’s great for my younger girls and getting the seniors back here was nice, too.”
Senior Brook Conway contributed in three different phases, with 13 kills, 32 assists and 17 digs over seven sets. Senior Brenley Stearns had a team-high 17 kills.
Liberty plays St. Paul Lutheran (Concordia) in the Class 2 3rd place game at noon Saturday. St. Pius X and Hermann will square off in the title game at 1:30 p.m.
Eminence left to wonder what could have been
One point. Eminence 24, Valle Catholic 20.
That was all that separated the Redwings from a crucial first-set win over 4-0 Valle Catholic in their final round-robin match.
Five set points later, Eminence was unable to close the deal as Valle Catholic fought back to prevail 27-25. The Warriors followed with another body-blow to Eminence, taking the second set 26-24 and denying the Redwings a chance at their first state championship since 2011.
“We had that set won. I truly believe if we won that first set (against Valle), we would’ve gone on to win the second set,” said Eminence coach Brooke Williams. “Had the game won, just had to get one ball down.
“I am very proud of my girls for getting this far and fighting. They’ve overcome a lot of things that I couldn’t be more proud of. We have one more game left and we’re here to win it.”
Eminence opened with a 2-0 win over New Haven, 25-19 25-21. After falling 2-0 to a tall Northland Christian team (25-17, 25-21), Eminence faced a must-sweep scenario against Valle Catholic.
Northland Christian, which lost 2-0 to Valle Catholic but beat New Haven 2-0, ended its day 4-2. An Eminence sweep of Valle Catholic would’ve put all three teams – Eminence, Northland Christian and Valle Catholic – in a three-way tie for the two finals spots. The tiebreaker would’ve been determined by point differential and head-to-head factors.
The Redwings couldn’t make said scenario happen.
“I’m the worst loser there ever was, but I didn’t for a second think we’d lose to Valle. I knew we’d bounce back after losing to Northland Christian. And we did bounce back, we just couldn’t finish,” Williams said.
Eminence’s hitters had a monster start against New Haven. The Redwings had a .302 kill percentage as Mariah Smith (8), Wendy Smith (8), Madison Keeling (9) and Savanna Conner (10) combined for all 35 of the team’s kills.
Wendy Smith had 25 kills over the six sets to lead Eminence and Keeling added 24 kills. Sophomore setter Sydney Williams was busy, delivering 75 assists over six sets, including 31 against New Haven.
Eminence plays New Haven in the Class 1 3rd place game at 9 a.m. Saturday. Northland Christian and Valle Catholic follow in the Class 1 title game.
“We may not being playing for first, but we’re up here with the three best teams in the state and that in itself is a huge accomplishment and (our players) should be proud,” Williams said. “Losing to Valle or Northland stinks but I’m OK with it because they are two of the four best teams in the state.
“I do think that we are the best team in the state. We just didn’t show it at the right time.”