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Scholastic sports year-in-review: Volleyball teams thrive in postseason

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a multi-part series highlighting notable events and achievements by local athletes during the 2016-17 scholastic sports season.

Although the 2016-17 fall sports season provided no high school state champions within the Daily Journal coverage area, many teams and individuals enjoyed deep postseason runs.

A strong freshman recruiting class helped the Mineral Area College volleyball program return to the NJCAA national tournament for just the second time in its history.

The Lady Cardinals claimed tournament titles at Kankakee and Lincoln Land within a 12-0 start, then commenced a similar surge in late October.

With powerhouse MSU-West Plains banned from the postseason, Mineral Area topped Jefferson in a winner-take-all Region 16 final that included a marathon fourth set.

The Lady Cardinals swept John A. Logan to qualify for the national tourney, and duplicated their result from the 2011 season by placing 10th overall despite being seeded 13th.

Freshman outside hitter Cailey Bracken became the first MAC volleyball all-American honoree, picking up Honorable Mention from the NJCAA.

Valle Catholic added to its rich volleyball tradition by taking second at the Class 1 state championships in Cape Girardeau and posting a single-season record for wins amid a 35-4-1 record.

The Lady Warriors overpowered Gideon and Lesterville in playoff matches, and were a perfect 6-0 in sets during state pool play before falling to Northland Christian in the title contest.

Valle Catholic, which had five players named to the all-state team, captured MAAA regular season and district championships on the same nights as cross-town rival Ste. Genevieve.

The Dragons clipped top seed Windsor during a three-set classic in Class 3, District 2 while the Lady Warriors rolled past St. Vincent in Class 1, District 4.

Farmington became the third squad from the MAAA to reach the postseason after outlasting Poplar Bluff over three grueling games in Class 4, District 1.

The Knights claimed their sixth district crown in seven years and 18th victory in 19 matches on the heels of a hard-fought MAAA tournament title.

Arcadia Valley and Bismarck gave the MAAA a total of five volleyball teams with at least 20 wins.

Paula AuBuchon announced her retirement after 24 years and 528 victories as head coach of the Lady Indians. She was inducted into the MHSVCA Hall of Fame on February 24.

FOOTBALL

Two remarkable streaks ended for the storied Valle Catholic football program with large crowds in attendance for marquee matchups at Fr. John Dempsey Field.

A string of seven consecutive state final appearances expired at the hands of Penney in a 33-19 semifinal loss. The Warriors had claimed five of the last six Class 1 titles.

Valle Catholic briefly boasted the longest string of victories in the nation with 51, but Class 2 juggernaut Lamar halted it with a dominant 50-13 effort in a battle of reigning state champs.

The Warriors maintained their district supremacy by holding off Hayti 41-24, then utilized a 21-4 edge in first downs to defeat Thayer 35-8 in a quarterfinal road game.

Central notched its fifth straight district crown in Class 3 with a 42-14 thumping of Ste. Genevieve after barely slipping past the Dragons 8-7 during the regular season.

The Rebels jumped to an 8-0 start that included a 14-10 victory at ranked Class 4 foe MICDS. Their quest to finally reach the state semifinals was denied in a 34-20 setback against Miller Career Academy.

Former all-state Central quarterback Jake Bridges stamped his name on the national stage for Missouri Valley College during a 49-30 win over Culver-Stockton on Oct. 4.

He completed 21-of-32 passes for 337 yards and six touchdowns while adding a rushing score, and was selected the NAIA and Heart of America Athletic Conference offensive player of the week.

Few individual performances could equal what Farmington senior running back Gavin Duncan achieved in a 70-47 triumph against Clayton. He recorded a school-record seven rushing touchdowns while piling up 325 yards.

Farmington held rival North County to 4 second-half yards to prevail in week 2, but the Raiders bounced back to defeat MAFC Red Division nemesis Festus for the first time in a decade.

Wild weather created a scheduling nightmare in September as lightning forced several schools to move Friday games to Saturday in back-to-back weeks.

SOFTBALL

Improbable comebacks, avenged losses and multiple home runs were repetitive themes throughout a fleeting but exciting fall softball campaign.

North County and Farmington shared the MAAA regular-season crown with records of 8-2, but Central dispatched both to win the conference tournament.

The Knights erased the memory of a demoralizing 16-0 loss against Hillsboro by eliminating the Lady Hawks 9-7 from the Class 3, District 2 semifinal round.

A 9-0 lead slipped away from Farmington in the district final, however, as De Soto completed a stunning rally in extra innings to prevail 11-10 on a neutral field in Potosi.

Knights all-state shortstop Alyson Tucker led the conference with 10 home runs. She connected in three straight games, and also launched a two-run, walk-off blast to sink Jackson.

Farmington teammate Allison Pingel homered nine times overall, and punctuated the regular season with her third multi-HR effort of the year against De Soto.

North County freshman catcher Emma Becker punished Potosi pitching during conference action with four home runs in two meetings.

All-state sophomore Kimmy Wallen broke three single-season offensive records for Central, totaling 48 hits and 34 stolen bases while posting a .565 batting average.

Caitlyn Holmes hit for the cycle during the Lady Rebels’ MAAA semifinal win over Farmington. Central earlier upended Windsor 11-10 by scoring eight unanswered runs over the last two frames.

BOYS SOCCER

The North County boys soccer program reached a new pinnacle last fall when a 4-0 Class 3 sectional triumph over Hillsboro marked its first state playoff win.

A quarterfinal setback against Rockwood Summit left the Raiders with a 16-5-1 mark that included two tremendous battles with county rival Farmington and a Festus Tournament title.

Nick Parker netted both goals in a 2-0 victory over the Knights in the district final. North County also prevailed in the regular season following 10 rounds of penalty kicks.

Tommy Struckman and Joel Strauser – the Raiders’ leading scorers – grabbed all-state honors along with Farmington forward Bryce Sancegraw and midfielder Alex England.

Sancegraw tallied a hat trick in a 3-2 decision over Poplar Bluff.

CROSS COUNTRY

A stellar varsity career for Ste. Genevieve senior and former state champion Ben Naeger ended with a second-place run at the Class 3 meet in Jefferson City.

Teammates Schuyler Ogden and Nathaniel Odgen placed sixth and seventh, respectively, while helping the Dragons finish second in the boys’ team standings.

That trio posted three separate 1-2-3 results during the regular season, and Naeger scored consecutive victories at the Notre Dame, Potosi and Borgia invitational events.

The Ste. Genevieve girls were likewise represented on the Class 3 state medals stand by Olivia Grein (4th place) and Sarah Moore (19th place).

Farmington senior Ryan Parson collected his second state medal after twice setting a new school record in the 5-kilometer competition. His best time of 15:37 was obtained during the Chili Pepper Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.

Valle Catholic senior Allison Bahr crossed the line 20th in state competition. Naeger and Grein captured top honors at the MAAA conference meet.

Taylor Werner made a seamless transition from Ste. Genevieve to the Division I collegiate level for SEC champion Arkansas, twice securing conference Freshman Runner of the Week recognition.

She placed 16th amid cold and blustery conditions at the NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Ind., and became the sixth member of the Razorbacks women’s program to earn all-American honors.

North County graduate Megan Parks completed her career at Southeast Missouri State by taking seventh at the OVC Championships. She owns the fastest 6K time in program history (21:43).

GIRLS TENNIS

Farmington senior Martha Schwalenberg repeated as the Class 2, District 1 singles champion after defeating teammate and doubles partner Erin Coleman in straight sets.

The Knights rolled to the MAAA tournament title by capturing first place in seven of nine rankings brackets after going unbeaten in the regular season.

Arcadia Valley senior Lily Tripp and Fredericktown junior Maddie Rekhop joined Schwalenberg among the all-conference selections.

The Class 1, District 2 individual tournament saw Tripp claim the singles championship while Rehkop paired with Bailey Stamp for the doubles title.

GIRLS GOLF

Ste. Genevieve senior Madison DeRousse challenged for a Class 1 state title, and safely placed second overall after carding back-to-back rounds of 77 at Meadow Lake Acres in Columbia.

She improved from a 20th-place showing as a junior, and earlier shined during a nine-hole match on Sept. 1 at Crown Pointe by scoring a 4-under par 32.

Jessica Lindsey directs a back-row pass as Mineral Area volleyball teammates Cailey Bracken and Hunter Vargo look on during a District K playoff match against John A. Logan on Nov. 5, 2016, in Park Hills. The Lady Cardinals eventually placed 10th at the NJCAA tournament to duplicate their highest national finish in program history.

Jessica Lindsey directs a back-row pass as Mineral Area volleyball teammates Cailey Bracken and Hunter Vargo look on during a District K playoff match against John A. Logan on Nov. 5, 2016, in Park Hills. The Lady Cardinals eventually placed 10th at the NJCAA tournament to duplicate their highest national finish in program history.

Valle Catholic receiver Cole Wood (3) tries to run past Lamar defender Anthony Wilkerson (43) after catching a pass during football action on Oct. 1, 2016 in Ste. Genevieve. Lamar prevailed 50-13 in a battle of top-ranked teams and reigning state champions, and ended the Warriors' 51-game win streak that was best in the nation.

Valle Catholic receiver Cole Wood (3) tries to run past Lamar defender Anthony Wilkerson (43) after catching a pass during football action on Oct. 1, 2016 in Ste. Genevieve. Lamar prevailed 50-13 in a battle of top-ranked teams and reigning state champions, and ended the Warriors’ 51-game win streak that was best in the nation.

Farmington junior Alyson Tucker slides for a double during the Class 3, District 2 softball championship game against De Soto on Oct. 7, 2016, in Potosi. Tucker belted 10 home runs to lead the MAAA Conference, and was a First Team all-state selection.

Farmington junior Alyson Tucker slides for a double during the Class 3, District 2 softball championship game against De Soto on Oct. 7, 2016, in Potosi. Tucker belted 10 home runs to lead the MAAA Conference, and was a First Team all-state selection.

Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at mking@dailyjournalonine.com

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