Entering Saturday, it had been 24 years since a Mountain Grove volleyball team had been to the state championships. But after beating Fair Grove and El Dorado Springs, the Lady Panthers are bound for Cape Girardeau.
Mountain Grove survived a three-set clash with Fair Grove in its first game of the day, then handled El Dorado Springs in two sets to punch a ticket for the Show Me Center next weekend.
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A kill from 5-foot-11 senior middle hitter Maddie Halford gave Mountain Grove a 25-22 win in the first set against El Dorado Springs. But the Lady Bulldogs came out strong in the second set, gaining a 6-2 lead that prompted a timeout from Mountain Grove coach Amy McNew.
McNew lit into her players for the shaky start, and Mountain Grove responded quickly. The Lady Panthers would tie the game 8-8 on Ashlynn Rogers’ ace, then take a 13-10 lead and never trail again.
“We were going to keep putting our foot on the pedal and keep working as one unit, taking it to them,” said Halford, who led Mountain Grove in kills.
El Dorado Springs cut the deficit to 19-16, but Mountain Grove scored the final six points.
McNew credited the play of senior Emily Fry for helping Mountain Grove recover in the second set.
“She provided a fire for us,” McNew said. “When she stepped up and got some key kills, we relaxed and just started playing.”
The Lady Panthers got off to a hot start in the first set, leading 8-2. El Dorado Springs closed the gap to 18-16 after a Lady Panthers error, and even got within a point at 22-21 behind an ace from Kinli Simmons.
However, kills from Rogers and Halford gave Mountain Grove the set.