PARK HILLS – Ball movement was nowhere near the optimum level that the Mineral Area volleyball team has become accustomed during a large portion of the opening set Wednesday evening.
But the 8th-ranked Lady Cardinals once again displayed a penchant for seamlessly correcting its mistakes when the need arrived to commence a timely scoring run.
Freshman libero Shelby Meyer served two aces during a startling 10-0 string that defined the opening set, and Mineral Area swept Vincennes 25-16, 25-21, 25-19 to remain undefeated.
Jane Kickham spiked several missiles to the surface from the right side, and compiled a team-high 14 kills along with 10 digs and four blocks.
Mineral Area (31-0) will honor five sophomores on Tuesday against St. Louis while heavily favored to stamp an unprecedented perfect march through the regular season.
Cailey Bracken equaled Melissa Avendano with 10 kills, and middle hitter Anica Popadic accounted for eight more in the victory. Five MAC players recorded one solo block.
Vincennes (26-7), which also suffered a straight-set loss at home to MAC last month, jumped ahead 7-4 as its opponents struggled to connect between the first pass and attack.
Brooke Lasher notched nine kills and Baylee Lippincott had eight to pace the Trailblazers, who regained a 13-12 edge on a kill from Yasmene Leath.
Mineral Area answered when Kickham tapped a pinpoint shot down the line, and began pulling away after Popadic destroyed a quick set for the go-ahead point.
Avendano connected on three swings between Meyer aces, and the Lady Cardinals safely claimed game one after building a 22-13 cushion.
MAC setter Pam Zuluaga compiled 38 assists with 10 digs, and experienced an eventual middle game that included a brief scare as she remained down with the score tied at 21-21.
But once a cramp in her right leg was alleviated, Zuluaga jumped to make a block and landed a turning spike on game point to help Mineral Area close with a key 4-0 spurt.
That set began with Kickham posting a block and three kills for her team’s first four points. She later made two horizontal digs within a single rally that Avendano ended for a 7-6 lead.
Vincennes stayed within 19-18 after Lippincott pounded two swings off the defense, and the teams would battle to 10 separate ties.
Mineral Area picked up the next point in dazzling fashion, however, when Ainslee Finch handled three consecutive digs and Zuluaga hustled to save an errant ball before falling into seated head coach Tim Copeland on the bench.
Popadic snapped a 21-21 deadlock with authority, and the Trailblazers allowed a high pass to fall amid miscommunication to squander a crucial ensuing point.
Mineral Area grabbed a 14-10 edge in game three after Kickham and Popadic secured consecutive stuff-blocks. Bracken restored the margin at 18-14 by smashing past a double block.
Fredericktown graduate Raylyn Dodd picked up a middle kill and subsequent block for a 22-18 lead, and the Lady Cardinals won a final joust at match point.
Meyer totaled 14 digs while Bracken contributed 11 and Finch ended with eight. Mineral Area has lost only five games this season, fewest in the nation.
Hannah Bullock brought up 11 digs for Vincennes.
Mineral Area 3, MSU-West Plains 0
PARK HILLS – Cailey Bracken registered 14 kills and 17 digs on Wednesday as Mineral Area established another program standard by defeating MSU-West Plains 25-16, 25-23, 25-22.
The Lady Cardinals achieved multiple victories over Region 16 rivals Jefferson and MSU-West Plains in the same season for the first time ever.
Pam Zuluaga posted 40 assists with 13 digs, and Jane Kickham totaled 10 kills plus 10 digs in another straight-set triumph at home.
Shelby Meyer had a team-high 24 digs, and Ainslee Finch collected 11 more, giving Mineral Area (30-0, 4-0) five players with double digits.
Anica Popadic knocked down eight kills while Raylyn Dodd added seven and Melissa Avendano had five. Dodd finished with three blocks.