DE SOTO, Mo. – Mineral Area fought through an exhausting fourth set, and outlasted rival Jefferson 26-24, 19-25, 25-14, 32-30 on Saturday to win its second Region 16 volleyball championship.

Cailey Bracken recorded 16 digs and 11 kills, and Jane Kickham notched 11 kills with nine digs in the victory.

Setter Pam Zuluaga led the Lady Cardinals with 30 assists with two aces, while Anica Popadic recorded three blocks.

Mineral Area (24-7) will host John A. Logan next Saturday in a district playoff for a trip to the NJCAA national tournament.

The Lady Cardinals came into the match displaying strong emotion, and swiftly moved in front 6-1, backed by exceptional serving from Zuluaga.

Long rallies and a few service errors allowed the Lady Vikings to sneak back into the first set and take an eventual 14-13 lead.

Mineral Area kept its footing and cleaned up its play late in the set to get back ahead.

After starting game two with an ace, it was obvious that Jefferson was pushing hard to tie the match.

The Lady Cardinals committed several receiving errors, and allowed the Vikings to jump ahead 14-9.

MAC put effort toward a comeback attempt, getting the score to 20-17. The gap was too wide to overcome, though, as Jefferson freshman Kayla Juenger finished the set with a kill.

The Lady Cardinals responded in the third set to lead 19-10, and forced the Vikings to call a timeout. Popadic brought life to the team through her hard hitting.

The pause was not enough to revive Jefferson, and Zuluaga ended the game with a well-placed tip right at the net.

Each team gave its all from there with a championship on the line.

The fourth set went point for point all the way to a 13-13 tie. The Vikings then scored three straight, leading to a Mineral Area timeout.

The Lady Cardinals straightened out their miscues to come right back, and the teams traded spikes during another series of ties, resulting in a 30-30 score.

Mineral Area regained the lead after Jefferson was called for four hits, and Kickham delivered the final kill untouched by the Vikings' defense.

Five Lady Cardinals – sophomore Taylor Covington and freshmen Emily Eaton, Zuluaga, Kickham and Bracken – received all-region honors.

Tim Copeland was named Region 16 Coach of the Year.

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Sports Reporter

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