CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Arcadia Valley volleyball team had its composure and resolve tested after initially stumbling through its opening match of MSHSAA Class 2 state final four action on Friday.
But a brilliant recovery against Hermann left those teams on level ground, and the Lady Tigers preceded to reach the championship match without dropping another set in pool play.
Arcadia Valley (32-5-2) swept both St. Michael and Liberty (Mountain View) at the Show Me Center to increase its single-season record for wins, and will face 12-time state champion Hermann while chasing its first ever on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
“It was a rough start for sure, and my girls’ nerves were showing quite a bit,” Arcadia Valley head coach Tara Lamb said. “Once we got toward the middle of our first set, we began to find ourselves a little and continued to improve. From there, we never looked back.”
The Lady Tigers are guaranteed their highest state standing in program history after placing fourth in 2015, when current seniors Macey Browers, Laney Tucker and Josie Landrum were freshmen.
“Playing for a championship in the state tournament has been the ultimate goal from the start of the season, and they have now achieved that by earning one point at a time,” she added.
Hermann 1, Arcadia Valley 1
Arcadia Valley emerged from a sluggish start against Hermann to salvage an uplifting 12-25, 25-22 split in the pool opener after being forced to sink or swim late.
Maddie DeMent rotated forward at a crucial juncture, and broke a 21-21 tie in game two on a long kill that was partially touched before spiking her sixth kill on match point.
Kirsten Day had a team-high eight kills on 18 attacks, and Josie Landrum added six kills while equaling libero Katie Whited with 13 digs each for the Lady Tigers.
Macey Browers compiled 23 assists plus nine digs, and Gracee Smith provided seven digs.
Landrum connected off a block before stepping back to serve a 5-0 spurt. Arcadia Valley was energized with a 12-7 lead after Laney Tucker landed a cross-court shot inside the opposite line.
Hermann blocked the Lady Tigers three times to win a subsequent rally, and Emma Godat followed with a solo block make it 18-16.
Browers answered with a back-set that Landrum put down along the right side, and cleared with a crafty bump on second contact that the Bearcats could not reach in the corner.
Allison Stiers sparked Hermann with back-to-back kills, and Grace Winkelmann scored deep for a 20-20 deadlock after the Lady Tigers sent an attack wide.
Lamb elected not to rescue her battle-tested team with a timeout, and AV responded for three straight points. Kirsten Day terminated at 24-21 after a double contact call against Hermann.
All things considered, the result was positive for the Lady Tigers, who gained confidence and avoided the potential pressure of needing two sweeps later in the afternoon.
The Bearcats shined with remarkable defense during game one – both at the net and along the back row – and threatened to make the match a runaway.
Chloe Tyree spiked off a defender for a 9-2 start, and Godat paired with Stiers on a double block for an 11-3 lead. Hermann continued to dominate for a 20-9 spread.
Landrum made a remarkable running save near the bench to prolong one of the longer rallies of the contest, but Hermann eventually claimed the point.
Winkelmann pelted nine kills, and Stiers added six kills, 12 assists and 10 digs for Hermann, which did not initiate a substitution in the match. Caraline Brune dished out 14 assists
Arcadia Valley began the morning with a missed serve, and was forced to tip often when early passes failed to reach Browers in front of the 10-foot line.
DeMent recorded her first kill at 16-8. Only Day and Gracee Smith notched kills prior to that swing.
Arcadia Valley 2, St. Michael 0
Arcadia Valley breezed through a dominant first set against St. Michael the Archangel, then overcame a stunning debacle on serve receive to complete a crucial sweep in round two.
Maddie DeMent slammed nine kills and Laney Tucker knocked down eight more as middle attacking helped the Lady Tigers prevail 25-12, 25-23.
Macey Browers compiled 22 assists, 10 digs and two aces for Arcadia Valley. Katie Whited brought up eight digs while Josie Landrum and DeMent had seven each.
Arcadia Valley asserted control early in the match after answered an opening 4-0 run by St. Michael with eight straight points on the serving of setter Macey Browers.
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Kirsten Day recorded the tying and go-ahead kills following an ace, and DeMent buried two swings in a row to cap the surge.
Katie Whited made a diving dig to her left, and DeMent ended the rally with a block at 16-8 after she combined with Gracee Smith on an earlier double rejection.
Laney Tucker provided three kills while progressing across the front to cap game one, and Arcadia Valley enjoyed a commanding 23-8 advantage after St. Michael unleashed four straight hitting errors.
Josie Landrum and Browers fought off incoming spikes for another point early in game two, and the Lady Tigers were poised for decisive rout as a Tucker stuff helped to create a 9-3 start.
Abigail Salanski established herself as the most effective attacker for St. Michael, but made an equally massive impact along the service line to swing momentum.
St. Michael seized the next nine points, including four aces by the junior outside hitter, and suddenly had the Lady Tigers rattled as a kill from Mary Grace Tyler made it 12-9.
Whited appeared to wince in some pain after making a dig later in the game, but battled through it to execute several accurate passes and help AV modestly recover.
St. Michael was ahead 16-12 after Lily McCombs landed two jump serves for aces, and answered kills by Josie Landrum and Tucker to maintain a two-point edge.
DeMent rotated forward at an opportune time for the Lady Tigers, however, and made a tying block at 22-22 after Day hustled beyond the sideline to corral an errant pass.
Day followed with a go-ahead kill, and DeMent snapped a 23-23 tie from the middle as Landrum guided an overhead free ball to Browers.
St. Michael failed to generate an attack on match point, and DeMent pounded off a block to send her Arcadia Valley teammates into a celebratory frenzy.
Salinski finished with six of her team’s 14 kills, but the Guardians suffered 12 attacking errors. Emma Foley notched a team-high 13 digs.
Arcadia Valley 2, Liberty 0
A berth in the state final became official moments after Arcadia Valley opened the second set against Liberty (Mountain View).
Whether or not that reality had permeated their collective mindset, the Lady Tigers remained focused on their immediate task of punctuating pool play in style.
Maddie DeMent tallied eight kills on 15 attacks, and Josie Landrum terminated seven more as Arcadia Valley rode an efficient and balanced offense to a 25-19, 25-16 triumph.
Laney Tucker put down six kills on 12 swings, and Gracee Smith capitalized for five kills on nine spikes while Macey Browers posted 21 assists and 10 digs.
Whited equaled both Landrum and DeMent with six digs each, and quickly served a pair of aces before Landrum hammered a left-side swing and ensuing overpass to the floor.
Tucker and Smith continued the early onslaught for a 12-3 advantage as passing struggles prevented Liberty from getting its top hitters involved.
Arcadia Valley showed a seamless ability to improvise when the Eagles purposely spiked at Browers, who was easily up to the challenge.
DeMent set accurately for a Day kill after Smith reached low to complete a pass, and Smith collected four assists when Browers was forced into first contact.
Liberty trimmed the game one deficit to 22-14 when senior Piper Francis ripped two diagonal kills into the vacated back row, and made it 23-17 while combining with Peyton Bush on a double block.
Landrum secured game point with her fifth kill overall, and the Lady Tigers eventually gained control of game two after the teams were tied nine times through the first 18 points.
Smith used power before rolling a finesse shot past the blockers for consecutive kills to create the first serious separation at 12-9. She later pushed the lead to 17-12 with an ace.
An extended rally at 20-15 epitomized the total team effort of AV. DeMent blocked a Liberty spike and Landrum dug another after Browers masterfully pulled a deflected ball away from the net, and Tucker followed with a middle kill.
Francis paced all players with 11 kills for the Hawks, who ended winless in pool play and dropped their last four points on three attacking errors and a receiving miscue that gave Whited her third ace.
Caitlyn Basham distributed 23 assists and Kelstin Roy netted six kills while Francis added eight digs for Liberty.