WEST PLAINS, Mo. — Mineral Area had an opportunity to take the opening set of the Region 16 volleyball championship match Saturday after MSU-West Plains missed three serves and sent numerous attacks out of bounds.
The relentless power of the Grizzlies never ceased, however, and the top-seeded host squad developed more ferocious swings than the Lady Cardinals to record a 25-18, 25-20, 25-22 sweep.
Sophomore Nella Ioramo was lethal along the left side with 18 kills and was voted region Co-Player of the Year with teammate Helena Paric, who tallied 13 in the victory while Torika Beleilekutu had 12.
MSU-West Plains (23-12) completed a 3-match season sweep of the Lady Cards, and will travel to Bel Air, Md. on Saturday to face Harford College for a berth in the NJCAA national tournament.
Natalie Gremaud compiled nine kills, 16 assists, seven digs and three blocks for MAC (26-11), which made program history one night earlier by defeating Jefferson twice in a season for the first time.
Janika McIntyre also registered nine kills and Hanna Glastetter posted five blocks to lead all players. But the Lady Cardinals were simply unable to keep pace with the larger Grizzlies in the long run.
West Plains finished Game 1 with a 14-7 advantage in kills, but could only pull away late as 10 ties transpired within the first 26 points.
MAC grabbed a 6-5 lead when Gremaud buried a cross-court shot from the right side, and squared the stanza at 12-12 when Erin Wolford punched down a spike from the middle.
A missed serve and double-hit violation enabled the Grizzlies to extend an 18-17 edge, and Ioramo blasted back-to-back kills during a closing 5-0 spurt.
Liza Gray terminated twice for Mineral Area early in Game 2 after having few chances to swing in the opening game. But the Lady Cardinals quickly faced a mounting deficit.
The Grizzlies recorded their first six points on hard smashes, and eventually jumped ahead 9-3 on consecutive blocks by Leondra Barrett.
Mineral Area pulled to within 17-14 after McIntyre converted a backset and Glastetter landed a quick swing from the middle.
A net violation erased two strong digs from libero Danielle Guseman, and West Plains would not allow the margin to tighten any further.
The Lady Cardinals showed their greatest resolve in Game 3 after falling behind 12-5, sparked by three straight stuffs from McIntyre, Glastetter and Gremaud. Brittany Collins later served an ace for an 18-18 tie.
Ioramo seized control for the Grizzlies with two more thunderous kills, the second of which came off a free ball. Setter Brianna Zebert then dinked on a well-timed surprise to create a 22-19 gap.
Guseman made 12 digs and Paige Mays had 10 in the Lady Cards’ season finale. Wolford chipped in five kills with three blocks while Kayla Thibodeux added 11 assists.
Gremaud was named to the all-region first team along with Guseman and Glastetter representing MAC. Collins and Gray received honorable mention.
Zebert netted 47 assists while libero Alyssa Aldag brought up 25 digs for West Plains.