South beats East for Grin Action Classic championship

By Kai Raymer (For

Ciera Reyes had always wanted to play in the Sertoma Grin Action Classic – an all-star volleyball tournament for local high school seniors.

So Saturday afternoon turned out pretty fun for the former Nixa standout.

Her South squad defeated the East squad 25-20, 25-22 in the tournament finals. Reyes earned tournament MVP honors.

“It’s amazing because I’ve watched this tournament throughout high school,” Reyes said. “I was like, ‘I want to play in that my senior year.’ To get to accomplish all this was a really great feeling.”

Reyes and Nixa teammate Mikayla Routh also got one last shot at some former rivals.

Four Ozark players along with Liberty’s Piper Francis and Winona’s Kiley Counts filled out the six-player East squad.

“We’ve always been so competitive with Ozark, and I actually haven’t beat them in a long time,” Reyes said. “It was very nice to do that today. It’s always such a fun game with them because it’s high energy.”

The South squad, along with Reyes and Routh, had seven other players: Parkview’s Paiton Acord and Gracie Wedgeworth, Clever’s Abi Menzies and Harper Little, Aurora’s Julia McVey and Cassville’s Avery Brown and Brianna Hemphill.

“It was really humbling to be able to play in my home gym again, and with all these great players,” said Acord, who will join Reyes on the Evangel University volleyball team next school year. “We played really well together.”

South coach Briana Kleine (Cassville) said she focused her roster on athletic, outside hitters who could play all six positions.

“In practices, we wanted to see how they play with each other side by side and who those dominant personalities are,” Kleine said. “Then we trained for serve-receive a lot and how to play defense together.

“I think they had a lot of fun together, even though a lot of them hadn’t played together before. You couldn’t tell. They played like they had (experience) together.”

Harper and Acord had back-to-back kills in the first set that gave the South a 23-20 lead.

The East trailed throughout the second set, but rallied within 21-19.

Reyes sealed the South win down the stretch by recording three kills over her team’s final five points.

“We came together and communicated the whole time,” Reyes said. “No one was afraid to say something or mix up plays. We all worked well together.”

Said Kleine: “Ultimately, when you’re dealing with athletes that are that talented, you just step back and let them do their thing.”

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