By Matt Turer — @MattTurer
Clever, Mo. — Angie Wise drew a ladder on her team’s locker room whiteboard back in August. Each step brought the Clever Blue Jays closer to two goals: win a conference and a district title.
With a 2-0 sweep of Billings on Tuesday, backed by dominant service play from Lindsay Peebles in a 25-10 first set win and strong net play from Abi Menzies throughout, including in the 25-20 clinching set, the Blue Jays (16-7-3) can check off that first goal.
“With this being our last year in the SWCL, we wanted to go out on top,” Clever coach Angie Wise said. “We’ve got a little man going up the steps of that ladder [taking us closer to each goal]. It’s very simple, but who knows what motivates kids these days.”
“This is great. This was a really big goal of ours,” Clever senior Lindsay Peebles said of the SWCL title. “We’re not done yet, but we really wanted this.”
Clever used a 13-0 run to pull away and close out set one after leading 12-10. Peebles capped set one with 12 consecutive service points, finishing with 13 for the set.
“I didn’t even know how many we had in a row,” Peebles said. “I was just going to keep going.”
Billings (17-8-1) battled in set two. After trailing 18-11, the Wildcats responded with 6-1 run to pull within 19-17. Points 15, 16 and 17 came with Morgan Heimer serving and was the longest stretch of service points for the Wildcats all night.
“Our second set they got over it and were ready to play,” Billings coach Brandi Sillavan said. “I’m proud of how they it picked up. I hope in districts they come out with that fight.”
The Blue Jays answered the Wildcats’ run with a 5-0 run to take back control. An Abi Menzies kill provided the clincher.
“Abi always gets fired up against Billings,” Wise said. “She was really good tonight. She blocked like four in a row at one point. She’s been struggling and it’s great for her to have a big game…going into districts.”
Menzies’ net play fired up the Blue Jays during their 13-0 set one run.
“Whenever Abi is up there and she starts getting those blocks, and she starts getting those kills and we get in a groove. That’s when you know it’s going to go well,” Peebles said.
The Wildcats were without senior and 2016 All-SWCL honorable mention Kortney Kimberling for half the first set after she sustained a knee injury in warmups.
“The team didn’t know what to say,” Sillavan said. “They didn’t know to ask if she was going in or who was going in. At that time we didn’t know if she was going to be able to play.”
The Blue Jays trailed 1-0 and 4-3 in set one but didn’t trail the rest of the match.
Billings: The Wildcats close their season with Hurley on Thursday before facing winless Everton in round one of the Class 1 District 6 tournament on Monday.
Clever: The Blue Jays open district play on Tuesday as the top seed in Class 2 District 10. They await the winner of 4-seed Marionville and 5-seed Purdy.