PARK HILLS – Standout senior Kourtney Kekec and her North County volleyball teammates refused to be discouraged after settling for second place in the Class 3, District 2 tournament on Tuesday night.
The Lady Raiders enjoyed a superb season that included an MAAA Tournament championship during the stretch run, but simply ran into a scalding St. Pius team that again looked like a state contender.
Sophomore Jena Otec had a remarkable performance at the net with 18 kills, and the Lancers won the district title in convincing 25-13, 25-10 fashion over the hopeful Lady Raiders.
Eleanor Russell added four kills and Grace Richmeyer had two stuff-blocks in game 2 as St. Pius (29-5-1) passed the ball crisply and never let up from the opening serve.
“I don’t know if we were tired or just inexperienced in this situation, but our blocks were late continually,” Kekec said. “They just had an amazing offense, really, and were difficult to defend against. We played hard and did what we could, but they found the open spots.”
Emily Eaton made seven kills and Kekec posted five for North County (25-7-1), which carried a 6-match win streak into the district final.
Allie Hammack leveled the opening set at 11-11 with a good placement two points after Eaton notched a scoring block. But the remainder of the night belonged to the Lancers.
Shelby Meyer served a 7-0 scoring run that induced two North County receiving errors, and St. Pius jumped ahead 18-11 when Maddy Kassen connected from near the 3-meter line.
The Lancers netted 14 of the last 16 points in game 1, and Otec proved unstoppable throughout an 8-1 outburst to begin game 2.
North County made its final push to draw within 13-8 before Otec returned to the front row. She posted 10 kills in the second set alone.
Both teams conserved some energy by sweeping their semifinal opponents in straight sets earlier in the evening. St. Pius put away Ste. Genevieve after North County toppled No. 1 seed Central.
The Lady Raiders put aside a crushing home loss against Central by standing atop a loaded conference tournament field last week, and became a district runner-up for the second straight year.
“Our team really fought back these last two weeks and played for each other,” Kekec said. “We had that fire and played really well, and I think people saw that we were a dangerous team.”
Ruess totaled 11 assists and Blair Hester made five digs in defeat. Senior Anna Falls opened the match with a left-side kill, and an ensuing attacking error gave St. Pius its lone 2-point deficit of the night.