SCOTT CITY, Mo. – Arcadia Valley has willingly sacrificed the facade of a shinier record to learn valuable lessons against a stacked volleyball schedule.
With 20 regular-season opponents owning at least 18 victories this fall, some lopsided and frustrating losses were inevitably part of the bargain.
The Lady Tigers never diverted focus from an attainable goal, and are reaping the rewards of resolve and preparation with an inspired Class 2 playoff run.
“Those experiences are why we’re here. It doesn’t matter to me what my record is. We’re not just about accumulating wins,” 15th-year head coach Tara Lamb said. “At the end of the season, you’re either the giant or you have to beat the giant. In our case, we had to beat the giant and have battled all season. It’s coming together when it’s supposed to. That’s why our schedule is what it is.”
Arcadia Valley never projected intimidation as the visiting team on Saturday, and delivered a dazzling defensive performance to secure a berth in the state semifinals.
Junior middle Kayla Sumpter compiled 16 kills plus eight digs, and senior setter Taylor Lorenz totaled 30 assists in a mostly crisp 25-20, 25-21, 25-17 sweep over Scott City.
“Our seniors have played together for seven years, and this was all we’ve dreamed about doing,” said libero Breanna Whited, who stopped numerous line attacks while covering 12 digs. “Keeping a strong mentality was the best thing we did. We had to trust in our teammates.”
Cate Newstead-Adams provided 10 kills with 13 digs and a solo block. The Lady Tigers improved to 3-0 in quarterfinal contests all time while playing their fourth elimination match in six days.
Alyssa Dirden offered the fiercest attacking threat for Scott City with 15 kills, including seven in game three alone. But AV handled a large majority of the softer placement shots by the host squad.
The Lady Rams had not scored more than three consecutive points until the third set when Mackenzie Lawless and Maggie Jones struck from the outside to highlight a 5-0 run.
Arcadia Valley promptly answered with a jolting 7-0 surge. Cate Newstead-Adams executed back-to-back digs while hitting the floor to enable a third straight kill from Sumpter.
Sumpter punished single blocking with accurate angle spikes, then pushed the Lady Tigers ahead 14-9 by neatly tipping past multiple defenders off a quick set from Lorenz.
“I had a good day hitting. I really thought they might double or even triple block,” Sumpter said. “Our passes were usually good, and our setting was perfect.”
Jaydan Crites made a diving stop in the middle, leading to a Scott City hitting error, then connected on a left-side swing to make it 17-12.
Arcadia Valley began to sense the outcome when Skylar Romines, who missed the district final earlier the week due to a sprained ankle, walloped a cross-court kill to answer a Dirden putaway.
Three more errors against the Lady Rams brought AV to match point, and Sumpter converted a set by Paige Newstead-Adams after Lorenz passed a free ball from the sideline.
Arcadia Valley (17-15-4) clinched its third Class 2 semifinal appearance within the last nine seasons, and will face Fair Grove (32-2-2) on Friday at the Show Me Center.
“It’s just this group of girls. We deserve It. We’ve been working so hard. I couldn’t have done it with any other team,” Sumpter said. “We played a lot of tough teams, and took a loss of losses. But it prepared us for this right here. We’re going to the final four, and it makes me so happy.”
Jones knocked down eight kills and Lawless added five for Scott City (18-13-3), which hoped to parlay an impressive road victory at Portageville in the sectional round.
The Lady Rams were aggressive at the outset, and powered ahead 9-5 on a left-side spike from Dirden. But the Lady Tigers began to cover the middle while increasing touches at the net.
Romines stuffed an incoming attack, and Scott City was out of rotation during a 4-0 spurt. Whited put Arcadia Valley ahead 13-12 in game one with an ace.
“We honestly didn’t expect them to come out as strong as they did, because we had seen them once before in the summer. We weren’t playing our best at the time,” Whited said. “So once they started swinging, we had to adjust a little bit.”
Lorenz avoided contacting the net on a key assist to Sumpter, and the Lady Tigers established a 21-17 margin after freshman Braelyn Turnbough and Whited made corner digs to claim a solid rally.
Turnbough guided her third excellent pass of a dipping jump serve as Cate Newstead-Adams landed her second consecutive kill to close out game one.
“That was really a concern for us, because they have super strong jump servers,” Lamb said. “I thought our serve receive was excellent. Braelyn stayed strong and calm, and made the ball go to the center just about every single time.”
Jones provided four kills in game two for Scott City, which held an 11-10 lead before switching to a steadier diet of placement attacks. The Arcadia Valley defense caused that strategy to backfire.
Lorenz extended her arms on a running pass beyond the sideline to prolong another winning point, and Whited denied a hard spike from the middle to help the Lady Tigers build a 17-13 cushion.
Sumpter influenced that momentum change by solo blocking a clearing attempt from the 10-foot line, then combined with Cate Newstead-Adams to send another swing back over the net.
“We have trained to adjust our defense into whatever we need it to be, depending on the team we play,” said Lamb, who previously guided AV to state trophies in 2015 and 2018. “At the very beginning of the first set, we rattled a little and allowed them to get several points before working our way back in. I think that little adjustment in our defense made a difference. We went after every single ball.”
Freshman libero Layla Estes made a fabulous save to her left — among 14 digs overall — and the ball carried across the net to a vacant back corner as the Lady Rams erupted in celebration.
But a floating serve by Sumpter fell untouched for an ace moments later at 20-14. Crites gave AV a 2-0 advantage in the match by going cross-court after Scott City had survived three set points.
Paige Newstead-Adams amassed 10 digs plus three assists, and Turnbough had eight digs with 10 serve receptions in the victory.
Ramsey Spinks finished with 25 assists and two aces while equaling Gracie Karrenbrock with seven digs each for Scott City.