By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Branson Pirates defeated the McDonald County Mustangs in three sets (25-19, 25-12, 25-17) to win a district title in coach Francie McBride’s first season. Branson took control of the game and their lead was never seriously threatened.
Previously, McBride had a successful 23-year run at Winona where she led the Wildcats to 14 final four appearances and five state titles.
“This is my first year at Branson,” said McBride, “and this is pretty exciting. I’m proud of the way my girls played tonight. We played a great team game tonight, with everyone contributing. My setter, Kierstyn Harmon, just really did a great job making something out of every pass. Morgan Leblanc is always solid for us. Emily Prosser and Kayli Thomas really got a lot of great attacks. They were really dominant tonight, overall.”
In the first set, Branson jumped out to an early 17-9 lead. McDonald County fought to get back in the game, reducing Branson’s lead to 22-19. The Pirates dispatched the Mustangs with two hard spikes from senior Morgan Leblanc, ending the first set 25-19.
“I think the most exciting part of tonight is that we all came together and played as a team and always lifted each other up,” said Leblanc. “We used our volleyball IQ and placed the ball where we wanted it to go.”
In the second set, Branson again got off to a big lead, 20-5, only to see that drop to 23-11, forcing McBride to take a timeout. After the timeout, her Pirates got two of the next three points, quickly ending the second set, 25-12.
“We knew where their weaknesses were and that was something we were going to try to exploit, but Prosser is really good at seeing the floor,” said McBride. “She does a good job at that so she was already on the lookout and ready for that.”
In the third and deciding set, McDonald County could not get anything rolling, offensively, but still managed to stay in the set. At one point they trailed 20-17, only to see Branson establish dominance by winning the final five points. The score of the third set was 25-17, giving the Pirates the District title.
One of Branson’s weapons tonight was the dink pass, not just spiking the ball. Harmon caught the Mustangs off guard several times, dinking the ball over the blocker’s outstretched arms.
“I just love to dink all the time, I just feel they weren’t really always ready,” said Harmon. “I watch them and can see it in my peripheral vision.”
At the beginning of the year the Pirates set their goal to win districts and to qualify for state.
“It is a tough road to get to state,” said McBride, “but these girls have the determination and have worked so hard and made so many improvements this year, I think mentally they are ready. They have the desire and the ‘want-to’ and I feel like, we’re just going to dig in and do everything we can—you never know.”
Branson will play the winner of Thursday night’s matchup between Harrisonville and Belton. The time and location is to be determined.
McDonald County 19 12 17
Branson 25 25 25