MALDEN, Mo. – Josie Landrum was the first player rushing off the sideline to join her teammates when the Arcadia Valley volleyball program punched its inaugural ticket to the Class 2 final four.
Three years later on Saturday night, her service ace touched off a similar celebration. This one perhaps more anticipated and far less stressful, but still every bit as special.
The Lady Tigers scored 11 consecutive points during one juncture, and overwhelmed Bloomfield 25-15, 25-14 with precision in a state quarterfinal match at Malden High School.
Sophomore Maddie DeMent posted team highs with nine kills and 12 service points, and also collected 11 digs through prolonged stints on the back row.
Arcadia Valley (30-5-1) added two more wins to its single-season school record, defeating Maplewood-Richmond earlier in the earlier sectional round following a brief sluggish start.
“We continued to improve the whole night, and thank goodness,” Arcadia Valley head coach Tara Lamb said. “When we came out and played Maplewood-Richmond Heights, it was a slower-paced game, and we didn’t adjust to that very well.”
The Lady Tigers were in a similar position against Bloomfield, clinging to a 16-15 lead during the first set before completely dominating the remainder of the action.
DeMent served a closing 9-0 sequence, including an ace on game point after the Wildcats failed to pass effectively for a third straight point.
Landrum executed two stuff-blocks, the second of which followed a lunging DeMent dig, and Laney Tucker knocked down three of her eight kills during that stretch.
Arcadia Valley threatened to pull away sooner as five straight points yielded a 10-6 lead, but Bloomfield hung tough as Melanie Phillips and Bailey Below combined for five early kills and three double blocks.
“When [Below] moved to the back row, we knew that we had to push then,” Arcadia Valley sophomore Gracee Smith said. “Laney was putting the ball down and Maddie was serving great.”
DeMent and Smith each terminated twice as the Lady Tigers surged ahead 7-1 in game and never looked back. Setter Macey Browers directed the potent offense with 30 assists while adding eight digs.
Browers covered a Bloomfield block and Smith scored alertly by attacking on second contact. Smith had six kills with seven digs overall, and rotated back for an ensuing ace to make it 12-3.
“They did not play nervous. They went up swinging,” Lamb said about her underclassmen. “Nobody was tipping or playing timid. And that’s been part of our game plan all year long.”
Confidence appeared to steadily decline for the Wildcats (19-7-1) – who bounced Malden in three sets earlier and lost a previous match to AV this fall – as more incoming serves were not returned.
After two aces from Tucker extended the margin to 17-5, a stuffed tip by Below highlighted the last gasp for Bloomfield as three straight points slashed the difference to 19-11.
“It’s so exciting to be part of a team like this that’s so strong,” said junior Kirsten Day, who finished with four kills. “Wherever my teammates tell me to hit, I just try to put the ball there.”
DeMent stopped the temporary run with a deep angled spike, and Landrum finished a perfect bump set from Browers off a low pass at 21-12.
Day pounced on an overpass to present match point, and Landrum did the honors as her sinking serve caromed safely off two opposing players before landing.
Arcadia Valley will compete in state round-robin action Friday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Opponents are Hermann (30-5-1), Liberty-Mountain View (30-6-1) and St. Michael (17-9-3).
“There is a different team dynamic this season. I have a very ambitious and determined group, and they want to enjoy every single part of this,” Lamb said. “We stopped in the locker room and held hands, and I just said ‘I want you to enjoy this, and think about what you’ve just accomplished.’”
Junior libero Katie Whited anchored the defense with 18 digs and six points for the Lady Tigers. Landrum provided five kills plus six digs in addition to her two blocks.
Browers, Tucker and Landrum will have a second shot to complete for a state championship after being part of the 2015 squad that placed fourth.
“I’ve always looked up to the girls who are seniors now,” Smith said. “Watching them from the sideline was fun, but being out there with them is so much better. We all love each other.”
Arcadia Valley 2, Maplewood 0
MALDEN, Mo. – Maddie DeMent finished with nine kills, 10 points and two stuff-blocks in the Class 2 sectional round as Arcadia Valley topped Maplewood-Richmond Heights 25-15, 25-14.
Josie Landrum totaled six kills and eight digs for the Lady Tigers, who closed game one by taking 13 of the last 16 points against the Blue Devils (25-2).
Macey Browers dished out 26 assists, and had a long stretch at the service line to compiled 12 points. Katie Whited collected 10 digs with nine points.
Laney Tucker knocked down five kills while adding a solo block, and Kirsten Day had four kills to bolster Arcadia Valley. Gracee Smith picked up seven digs.