By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
WEBB CITY — It has been said many times before that it’s difficult for one team to beat another three times during the same season.
The Carl Junction Lady Bulldogs did just that by sweeping their arch rival Webb City Lady Cardinals 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-23) Wednesday evening for a Class 4, District 11 title inside the Cardinal Dome.
“That is a challenge,” Carl Junction head coach Cheryl Sharples said. “It can work one of two ways. It can mentally give you an edge on a team or it can drive that team and make you feel overconfident. We talked really hard about just being grounded and doing what we do.
“I’m really proud of this team. It’s been a great year and they’re a fun team to coach. They just love each other so much. It’s fun to watch them celebrate and be excited for each other.”
Sharples added that it was the first time Carl Junction volleyball swept Webb City in a season.
Carl Junction improved to 24-6 overall headed into a Saturday sectional match at home against Central Ozark Conference rival Willard (27-3-1). Willard prevailed over Carl Junction in four sets in the regular season.
“Here’s the thing,” Sharples said. “I like this team. They’ve stepped up in big games for us all year and I feel like we have as much talent as any team out there.”
In the match Wednesday, Carl Junction senior outside hitter Salma Lewis led all players with 23 kills and Jessa Hylton added 16 for a formidable 1-2 punch, Logan Jones had 38 assists, Jillian Kennedy added four blocks, and Olivia Vedez contributed 23 digs and three aces.
Jones’ 38 assists proved to be historic, as they gave her a new Carl Junction single-season record with 859 total assists in 87 sets played so far this season. Bradyn Wall held the old mark with 851 assists in 91 sets. Jones has averaged nearly 10 assists per set during her sophomore season.
Carl Junction’s attack at the net proved to elevate the Lady Bulldogs to victory Wednesday.
“We worked Tuesday on being really aggressive at the net and blocking,” Sharples said, “and also offensively and taking good swings. Outworking them at the net.”
Lewis and Hylton especially were too much for the Lady Cardinals to handle.
“Jessa, when’s she on, she is hard to stop,” Sharples said. “She’s a real pivotal player for us. When she’s doing what she does for us well, we are hard to beat. Salma gets us out of a lot of situations, front row and back row.”
Carl Junction made significant runs in each set Wednesday — 5-0 and 6-2 in the first set, 8-1 to end the second on a high note, and 9-1 to take a big lead in the final set. The Lady Bulldogs needed every bit of that big lead in the final set when Webb City rallied and trailed only 23-22 late in the match. Two Lewis kills ended the match and Webb City’s season.
Webb City finished the season 24-8-1 and Lady Cardinal seniors Abby Stork, Sage Crane, Anna Hettinger, Maddy Peeples, and Ella Cates closed out their high school volleyball careers one win shy of a district title.
“Any time you’ve got Webb City and CJ volleyball together, it’s going to be a long, hard night and it was,” Webb City head coach Rhonda Lawrence said. “I’m very proud of our girls. We did a lot of good things, we did a lot of better things than even playing them earlier in the year, and unfortunately, somebody’s got to lose these nights and it sucks.
“I just can’t say enough about this senior class. They’ve carried us all season long. A lot of people discredited us after last year and Maddy carried the torch. Our two back rows and my center stepped up tonight, I mean Anna Hettinger looked great tonight. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity and the resiliency of these kids all year long, to be able to keep coming back and making things happen on the court, I can’t be more proud of everybody, but that senior group showed great leadership.”
Peeples led the Lady Cardinals with 19 kills, Hettinger came through with 25 assists, Crane totaled 20 digs and six aces, and Makenzie Storm tallied two blocks.