CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Arcadia Valley volleyball players smiled through tears and belted out one last boisterous yell when presented the MSHSAA Class 2 state second-place trophy on Saturday.
Their unbridled emotions spilled out over the next several minutes; first privately in the locker room, then again while greeted by devoted family and fans who followed them to the Show Me Center.
Although a hard-fought loss in the championship match to longtime power Hermann certainly stung, the finality of a riveting, rewarding and historic season rendered the harshest toll.
“This season was amazing. It was something that I’ll never forget, looking back to my senior year,” Josie Landrum said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I know it will. I still have other sports to play, but it’s still hard to take as the ending of a chapter in an athlete’s life.”
Hermann never trailed during the decisive third game, and topped the Lady Tigers 25-21, 22-25, 25-17 to claim the 13th state crown in program history while denying Arcadia Valley its first.
Allison Stiers collected her 14th kill on match point, plus 17 assists and 23 digs in an enormous effort for the Bearcats (33-5-2). Chloe Witte, Grace Winkelmann and Chloe Tyree supplied eight kills each.
Hermann often balanced its attacking success with phenomenal digging, especially at a crucial juncture after Arcadia Valley had squared the match by securing game two.
“You just meet those teams here that are sometimes better, and all teams match up differently,” senior setter Macey Browers said. “I do wish we would have won, but I would not change one aspect of this weekend. We got second in the entire state of Missouri in Class 2, and that’s something to be proud of.”
Browers distributed 32 assists, and her 20 digs led the Lady Tigers for a third straight match dating back to pool play on Friday. She made difficult back-sets seem routine, and prevented several vicious spikes from touching the floor with swift reaction.
Sophomore Maddie DeMent spiked a team-high 12 kills, and junior Kirsten Day knocked down nine to pace AV. Both are poised to return next season along with libero Katie Whited, outside hitter Gracee Smith and back-row specialist Cierra Layton.
The teams entered the final with identical records, and charted a similar path to their encounter some 27 hours ealier when the Lady Tigers surged back to salvage an important pool split.
Stiers spotted Hermann an early 9-6 lead with two straight kills, but Day sandwiched two placement shots around an ace by Laney Tucker to bring Arcadia Valley even at 12-12.
The Bearcats later extended a 16-15 lead by taking five of the next six points. An open middle attack was cut wide, and the Lady Tigers failed to clear at 21-16 after Landrum saved an errant pass from the net.
That modest amount of separation enabled Hermann to lock down game one as Winkelmann spiked its 24th and 25th points past late-arriving blocks to the surface.
“Hermann is an incredibly strong team, and we had to work hard for every point we had,” Arcadia Valley head coach Tara Lamb said. “We just had to continue battling. Don’t be timid and don’t start tipping or pushing. Just keep swinging and make sure we cover our hitters and keep the ball off the floor in case they get a block on it.”
Arcadia Valley lasted an entire pressure-packed, three-set match without committing a single service mistake, and conjured an increased measure of grit and determination for game two.
Four different Lady Tigers produced digs within a wild rally that ended with a double block by DeMent and Landrum after their squad had trailed 6-3.
Browers somehow elevated a deflected spike with a delayed punch, and a seemingly harmless clear by DeMent landed amid a crowd of surprised defenders as rejuvenated AV continued a 6-0 scoring run.
“When you’re an upperclassman and you have all the pressure of the team on you, because everyone expects you to be a leader, you just have to step up, play our game and not think about what happened before,” said Browers, whose fourth consecutive all-state selection appears a foregone conclusion. “You just have push and do whatever you can to make every play like it’s your last.”
A Hermann timeout preceded two Arcadia Valley hitting errors, and kills by Tyree and Stiers made it 11-11. Eight more grueling ties unfolded from there as the score reached 19-19.
Tucker seized the spotlight at that stage with a solo block, and followed a Day kill with one of her own before rotating back for an ace that created a 23-20 edge.
DeMent answered Stiers by rifling a back-set to the floor, and the Bearcats directed an attack long on game point to level the match.
“I’m not going to lie. I was worried. I was scared, because we were behind a little bit,” Tucker said. “When I got my block, there was a feeling like we were not out of it. This was our time. This was our chance. We were able to take that second set, and it felt amazing.”
Hermann regained control to the tune of a 5-0 start in game three. Winkelmann terminated as AV was appealing for a four-hit violation to no avail, and the Lady Tigers followed with two costly errors.
Browers dumped the second ball neatly for a kill, and Landrum smashed a right-side swing down the line to propel Arcadia Valley back within 11-9.
But Hermann was nearly flawless down the stretch, picking up a variety of digs as their opponents grew visibly frustrated. AV could not fully regroup until the difference had ballooned to 18-9.
DeMent buried four attacks during a strong final progression across the front row, but the damage was done. The Bearcats were primed to close it out when Tyree scored off the block at 22-13.
DeMent ended with 10 digs and Whited brought up seven in defeat. Browers will leave AV as its career assists leader with 3,030.
“We have a lot of heart together, because we’re one big family. We wanted it so badly,” said Landrum, who connected for six kills while matching Smith with 15 digs each. “They’re so scrappy, and you can’t get a ball down, so you have a bunch of long rallies.
“Once you get a kill, you’re going to be ecstatic about it. They have a defense like Valle Catholic where nothing is ever going to hit the floor. We kept fighting, but just dug too much of a hole to win.”
Caraline Brune tallied 28 assists, and Emma Godat equaled Stiers with 23 digs for Hermann, which used no libero and made no substitutions.
Linda Lampkin added another championship trophy to her Hall of Fame résumé as the winningest head coach in Missouri state history for Hermann. She now stands at 943 career victories.
Arcadia Valley (32-6-2) shattered a single-season school record for wins by seven, secured a conference tourney title for the first time ever, and celebrated a second final four appearance.
“We accomplished so much, starting from the conference tournament on up, and so many records in AV history,” Tucker said. “We took second in the state. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I love it.”
Support from neighboring communities and rivals swelled throughout the postseason as the Lady Tigers hoped to become the first MAAA program to bring a state championship home since Valle Catholic went the distance in 2010.
“I write my girls a letter before big games, and I give them charms to wear in their shoes,” Lamb said. “Our shoe charm for today was ‘fearless.’ I wanted them to come out on the state floor today, knowing there was so much pressure, and stay calm.”
The trio of Browers, Landrum and Tucker – who finished fourth in the state as varsity freshmen in 2015 – totaled 107 victories during their four-year high school journey.
Among their most prominent results this fall was a payback triumph in the Jackson Tournament against Advance, which barreled through Class 1 and captured its initial state title earlier Saturday.
“The only thing I can say to describe this season is that it’s everything I ever wanted it to be,” Browers said. “We definitely let the pressure get to us a little yesterday, but we sat down together last night and had a big talk. What we all wanted by the end of our year was to be able to be proud of ourselves and have fun."