Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
CHADWICK, Mo. — The Summersville Wildcats volleyball program (11-18-4) proved an adage true Tuesday evening at the Class 1 District 6 tournament at Chadwick High School.
Good things truly do come to those who wait, as the Wildcats swept the competition en route to the title: their first district championship in 24 years.
First, the Wildcats swept Bradleyville in straight sets during semifinals action.
Approximately half an hour later, the Wildcats wasted little time in going for the gold: defeating the host Lady Cardinals in straight sets, 25-11, 25-10.
It isn’t supposed to be this easy, but for first-year Wildcats head coach Jeannine Buttress and her district champion Wildcats, they have become known as the exception to the rule.
The separation in the first set was crucial, when the Wildcats stormed out to a commanding 10-1 lead against the Cardinals.
But what may have been more of a dominating force was the Wildcats’ student section — turning a road playoff match into a home playoff ambience: much to the chagrin of the Cardinals faithful.
“Yes, definitely, our girls fed off of that crowd,” Buttress said of the cheering section. “Our girls finally … it finally dawned on them that they were capable of pulling together, working hard to get that win. That is the best they have played all season long.”
In regards to the versatile, powerful Wildcats attack, the offense is more than generous to its own.
On any given night, authoritative shots come via equal-opportunity scoring, as a plethora of players can deliver the quick knockout punch.
The team does not play a single senior player this season, but five juniors mixed with six freshmen and two sophomores has proved to be the appropriate elixir of success for Buttress and company.
Aces, blocks, and players practically levitating at the net allowed for the landslide win.
“They were starting to feel it,” Buttress said of the opening-set win. “What a time for them to get together — to come together as a team. Our crowd definitely backed us up on that.”
Buttress acknowledged the sudden change in her team, after all, this 2019 team was far from fluid just six weeks ago.
But navigating a tough schedule has brought a new aura to the program.
“We are from a super tough district. We play tough teams all year,” Buttress said. “We are a very young team, but the way we played together — worked together — we just believed. We chased down a lot more balls. We finally believed that our strengths were going to pull us through. We finally capitalized on that.”
In the first set, junior Kaylyn Simpson had four kills, an ace, and one block.
In the second, she had four kills as the Wildcats orchestrated 10 consecutive points.
While the Wildcats opened up another early lead during second-set action, the gap had been closed a bit, as the Cardinals remained just a handful of points behind.
But a smothering defense at the net and along the perimeter was too much for the Cardinals to overcome.
So, what changed from set-to-set?
“I just think we backed down a little bit on our intensity. We kind of played a bit slow,” Buttress said. “Once we made those adjustments, we brought back our tempo, and that quick tempo is what pushed us on through.”
For Simpson, the moment — the championship run — is beyond surreal.
And even more so since it came about two hours away from home.
“It is amazing,” Simpson said. “It is just a thrill.”
Simpson said the ambience felt like home, calming the nerves a bit: something they appreciated having in their back pocket.
“Yeah, it was so exciting. Everything is going on so fast, so crazy,” Simpson said.
The Wildcats now prepare for Saturday’s Class 1 sectionals, where they meet the Billings Lady Wildcats (20-5-2).
Summersville will serve as host.