PARK HILLS – Relentless defense is always a staple of success for a Valle Catholic volleyball team that often peers across the net at taller attackers.
The Lady Warriors met the challenge of facing especially strong middle hitters in consecutive matches on Thursday, and claimed an MAAA tournament title that has eluded their program since 2012.
Forceful blocking was established during the opening rotations as Valle Catholic scored six of the first eight points against Ste. Genevieve and rolled to a 25-15, 25-17 championship win.
Riley Wolk rejected an incoming spike, libero Sydni Basler kept the next one off the floor, and setter Taylor Siebert pulled an errant ball from the net during a victorious rally that epitomized the effort and handed Valle Catholic an early 6-2 lead.
“Blocking was one of the main things we’ve focused on this year, trying to stop teams at the net,” said Wolk, who posted back-to-back points on booming blocks and totaled eight for the match. “That takes some pressure off our back row and forces other teams to tip.”
Standout middle Avery Reed equaled teammate Haley Grass with five kills each, and delivered three consecutive digs during one exchange before Jennifer Humbolt spiked to bring Ste. Genevieve with 7-6.
But the third-seeded Dragons failed to click far too often, and were plagued by returning errors and free balls while Valle surged ahead 15-6 on an 8-0 scoring spree served by Rachel Loida.
Wolk added two more blocks late in game one, and Hannah Viox ripped a middle spike for the final point to cap an impressive opening set.
“I think the girls have been a little disappointed that we haven’t come through in tournaments so far this year, so this was a nice one for us to win,” Valle Catholic head coach Nancy Fischer said.
Junior outside hitter Lainey Bauman spent much of game one along the back row, but powered the attack with five kills in the next stanza.
Valle Catholic continued to test the Ste. Genevieve defense with placement attacks, and built a 16-9 margin after Taylor Seibert and Olivia Meyer scored on second touches.
“We didn’t do as well communicating in this game as we did in the Farmington game,” said Reed, who has committed to play at Division II Missouri S&T next season. “It’s a huge momentum killer.”
Taylor Siebert netted 20 assists and Basler picked up 14 digs plus 12 serve receptions. Freshman Riley Seibert provided five kills for the Lady Warriors (26-3), who will now focus on a hopeful return trip to the Class 1 state finals.
Valle Catholic nearly missed its third straight appearance in an MAAA final, but overcome two match points hours earlier in a three-set thriller against Small-School division rival Arcadia Valley.
“That win against AV was huge for us,” Bauman said. “Going three sets and playing any team with a score ending at 28-26 is a lot of volleyball. We were tired. We were exhausted, but we had a 2-hour break and that kind of calmed us down.”
Drue Lalumandier tallied 13 assists for Ste. Genevieve (22-7-2, which avenged a regular-season loss against Farmington to reach the final. Jaida Greminger and Reed had seven digs each.
Silver Bracket Semifinals
Valle Catholic 2, Arcadia Valley 1
PARK HILLS – Top seed Valle Catholic survived two match points and a one-game deficit in the Gold Bracket semifinal round to earn an exhilarating 21-25, 25-13, 28-26 victory over Arcadia Valley.
Lainey Bauman recorded 17 kills, including a tying smash after second straight attacking error gave Arcadia Valley a 26-25 lead in game three. She also had 24 digs and eight shared blocks.
Riley Wolk blocked a tip attempt on the ensuing point, and freshman Riley Siebert applied the final kill after AV setter Macey Browers momentarily prolonged the rally with a saving dig.
Riley Siebert totaled nine kills while Hannah Viox added six more for the Lady Warriors in a tremendous tussle between programs with recent state final four experience.
Freshman Maddie DeMent shined at the net for Arcadia Valley with 12 kills and five blocks, while junior Laney Tucker provided 11 kills with four blocks.
Browers compiled 31 assists with 15 digs while her counterpart, Valle setter Taylor Siebert totaled 37 assists and 13 digs in the victory.
Sydni Basler led all players with 28 digs in the victory, including a dazzling stop with her hand flat on the floor to win a crucial rally.
Fantastic defense and court coverage set the tone early on, but the fourth-seeded Lady Tigers jumped in front 5-1 on a cut shot from Gracee Smith and eventually led 14-8 after Josie Landrum hit down the line.
Valle Catholic used stellar digs from Rachel Loida and Kaydi Heil to prolong a winning rally, and Hannah Viox served the next point for an ace to get within 21-20.
But miscommunication allowed an ensuing high pass to fall in the middle of the floor, and an errant pass on the next point preceded a Josie Landrum kill that made it 24-21.
The Lady Warriors responded to dominate game two from start to finish. A double block by Bauman and Viox capped a 3-0 spurt, and kills by Riley Wolk and Olivia Meyer pushed the margin to 11-4.
Wolk had five kills and seven shared blocks while Kaydi Heil added 10 digs for Valle Catholic.
Karson Dement made 11 digs and Katie Whited contributed nine more for Arcadia Valley. Landrum posted six kills with eight digs.
Ste. Genevieve 2, Farmington 1
PARK HILLS – Jennifer Humbolt served two aces within a closing 5-0 run as third-seeded Ste. Genevieve topped Farmington 25-17, 14-25, 25-22 in the Gold Bracket semifinals.
Avery Reed slammed eight of her 18 kills during the decisive set, and also finished with 10 digs and four blocks while Drue Lalumandier made 35 assists in the victory.
Farmington grabbed a 22-20 lead when Kaylee Wooldridge spiked through a maze of hands, but a clutch answer from Reed spurred the last momentum shift before a Kloe Unterreiner kill brought match point.
Humbolt finished with eight kills while Julia McKlin and Haley Grass added five. The balanced Dragons controlled the opening set by collecting 18 of 25 points on swings that hit the floor.
The Knights improved defensively in game two – winning several rallies as Ste. Genevieve hit long or contacted the net – and Macey Pauls served a string of eight consecutive points for a 14-6 advantage that would not be challenged.
Jesse Miller posted 12 kills and hammered two in a row before Pauls landed two more on a tip and line spike in game three. Miller followed with two aces for a 16-11 lead.
Reed moved back to the front row, however, and connected twice from the middle for Grass struck from the left side to bring Ste. Genevieve within 17-16.
Jaida Greminger totaled 13 digs while Humbolt added 12 and Megan Schweigert brought up nine for the Dragons, who avenged a straight-set defeat in the regular season.
Jordyn Harris had seven kills and Pauls contributed five more while Wooldridge provided three blocks for Farmington. Sarah Bauer dished out 16 assists, and Ellie Reidt ended with 12.
Emily Greif and Blair Busenbark highlighted the Knights defensively with 15 and 14 digs, respectively.