PARK HILLS – The blocking for Central kept arriving late, and gave the powerful Festus attackers more spacious angles to inflict their punishment on Tuesday night.

Senior standout Bria Garmon hammered 12 kills, and Madalyn Wenzelburger provided six kills with three blocks in an emphatic performance by the top-seeded Lady Tigers.

Festus prevailed 25-17, 25-14 in the Class 3, District volleyball championship match, denying the Lady Rebels’ hopes of decorating their breakout season with an elusive banner.

Senior libero Grace Lassing compiled 11 digs – several while sliding on her knees – and was masterful on serve receive for Festus (28-2-1) as passes consistently led to stationary sets.

“I thought that was probably the best defense the kids played all year… The net play was awesome,” Festus head coach Karen Beihle said. “And our two who were hitting the ball most of the time were putting it on the floor.”

Avery Norris and Liberty Coleman each collected five kills, and senior Callie Thurston totaled three kills with three blocks for Central (23-8-2), which improved its win total by 10 this season.

District Volleyball

Central senior Callie Thurston (21) and junior Avery Norris (9) form a double block against Festus senior Madalyn Wenzelberger (2) as Hannah Stewart (8) looks on during game one of the Class 3, District 2 volleyball championship match on Tuesday night in Park Hills.

The Lady Rebels sought their first district crown since 2002, when current head coach Tracie Casey was in the first year of her first stint guiding the program.

But it wasn’t to be. Once the Lady Tigers established a significant lead, they offered no breathing room while advancing to face Ste. Genevieve in a state sectional clash on Saturday.

“We said before the game that if we couldn’t slow the ball down – just get a hand on it – then we were going to have a tough time tonight,” Casey said. “Garmon has really good hang time, and we jumped too early with her most of the time. And then we didn’t close our blocks well. Those were things that we’ll just have to get better at.”

“I don’t think we played bad at all,” she added “There were some really long rallies, and if more of those go our way, that can make a big difference.”

Central recovered from an early 6-2 hole that included two kills by Garmon, and pulled even at 7-7 as Coleman landed a second opportunity and Kaley Kimball swatted down a quick set in the middle.

Norris used power for a cross-court kill, and directed a pinpoint shot toward the opposite corner one rotation later. The Lady Rebels trailed just 15-14 after Hannah Stewart scored from the left side.

Festus began asserting its will as Wenzelburger spiked two kills around a joust won by setter Katelyn Todd, whose subsequent ace created a 20-15 separation.

District Volleyball

The Festus volleyball team celebrates after defeating Central in straight sets on Tuesday night to capture the Class 3, District 2 volleyball championship.

A sensational rally that spanned more than one minute in duration then became a defining moment in the match, and gave the Lady Tigers both an emotional lift and 23-17 edge.

Garmon buried the kill on a back-set, but not before Lassing made two sprawling stops. Thurston had two booming blocks that were ultimately covered, while tremendous digs from libero Buckli Moss and Coleman could not be capitalized upon.

“When something like that happens, it’s a two-point swing. We lose one and they gain one,” Casey said. “When you get that deep into a game, it’s a hard thing to come back from.”

Wenzelberger worked alongside Claire Werner, and Taylor Jackson paired with Todd for double blocks following back-to-back Garmon kills early in game two.

Six straight Festus points made the difference swell to 14-6, including an overpass kill, and Grace Hoffman made it 18-7 when a shanked pass turned into an ace.

Garmon compiled seven kills during the clinching set, and Wenzelberger punctuated the dominant triumph with two in a row.

Stewart dished out nine assists while playing her final varsity match with fellow senior Thurston. The duo helped ignite a program resurgence after winning just four times as varsity freshmen.

“Before the match, we sat around and asked what the best things about this season were,” Casey said. “And they brought up all the firsts that they had never accomplished before. But they wanted to hang a banner.

“We talked about the volleyball banner [from 2002] that is hanging up there, because I was pregnant with Addisyn – who is on the floor now – at the time. I actually went into labor at sectionals, and had her the next morning. To think that she’s now playing, and that’s our last banner.”

Norris added six assists, and Coleman finished with five digs for Central, which also placed runner-up in last week’s MAAA conference tournament.

The Lady Rebels are projected to return five starters next season.


Central 2, Windsor 0

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PARK HILLS – Callie Thurston planted a team-high six kills, and served a key 7-0 scoring run that helped Central capture the second set and advance past Windsor 25-13, 25-14 in the semifinal round.

Liberty Coleman posted five kills with five digs, while fellow sophomores Lizi Marler and Kaley Kimball added four kills apiece to the winning cause.

Game two featured eight ties, including 8-8 when a kill by Windsor junior Alyssa Vaughn answered a deep strike from Marler off a smooth dig by Buckli Moss.

Lidiya Sokolic and Sydnie Kube connected for consecutive points after Hannah Stewart had pushed the modest Central lead to three at 13-10.

But the Lady Owls suffered two straight attacking errors, and further slumped when Thurston served an ace ahead of two Coleman kills.

Central made it 20-12 through stellar defense as a diving pickup by Addisyn Casey preceded a solo block from Kimball. Avery Norris scored with a deep spike to create a 23-13 margin.

McKenna Brown had four kills, Kube equaled Ally Moore with six digs each, and Abigain Bailey chipped in three blocks for Windsor.

The opening game took a similar course as the Lady Rebels scored seven straight to pull away. Thurston bookended two kills around a Marler putaway and Norris ace for an eventual 18-9 cushion.

District Volleyball

Central sophomore Lizi Marler (4) reaches high to tip over Windsor blockers Lidiya Sokolic (12) and Abigail Bailey (13) during a Class 3, District 2 volleyball semifinal match on Tuesday night.

Thurston connected at 24-13 from the back row off a bump set from Norris, who totaled 15 assists. Stewart supplied seven assists, and Moss added four digs.

North County 2, Festus 0

PARK HILLS – North County took major strides in the second year of a program rebuild, and threatened to disrupt the entire Class 3, District 2 bracket before ultimately bowing out.

Festus rebounded from a six-point deficit late in game two, and converted a third match point to turn the feisty Lady Raiders aside 25-16, 26-24 in semifinal action.

Bria Garmon totaled 12 kills and Madalyn Wenzelberger finished with seven kills and two blocks for the Lady Tigers, who roared back for the sweep after trailing 18-12.

Kayleigh Winch tallied six kills, and freshman Emma Gaugel shined in the middle with nine blocks and four kills to bolster the upset bid.

District Volleyball

North County freshman Emma Gaugel (9) redirects a pass to the Festus side during a Class 3, District 2 volleyball semifinal match on Tuesday in Park Hills.

Junior Lauren Forrester finished with five kills, eight digs and three aces. She fought off a scorching attack to help win a point, then landed an ace on the next serve before Winch spiked for a 9-2 advantage.

Festus cleaned up its sudden issues with hitting accuracy and communication, but struggled for a while to gain much ground. North County maintained a 21-17 lead when Whitney Marler scored from the middle.

The comeback was soon completed through a 4-0 response. Wenzelberger popped two straight kills ahead of a tying ace from libero Grace Lassing.

An attacking error and misplayed serve put Festus at the precipice leading 24-22, but North County (14-14-5) offered one last act of defiance.

Gaugel feathered a shot past the block after Ashlyn Moore made a saving dig, then paired with Forrester on a double rejection to even the game.

District Volleyball

North County junior Lauren Forrester (25) reacts after blocking to fend off match point against Festus in a Class 3, District 2 volleyball semifinal match on Tuesday.

Jessica Hebenstreit answered with her own middle kill, which allowed Garmon to rotate forward, and a solid dig by Lassing preceded the finishing smash by Garmon.

North County ended its season with an even .500 record after earning just five wins next season. Kylie Morris, a defensive specialist, represents the lone senior on the current roster.

Emily Veach compiled 13 assists and Marler notched three kills while Morris and Moore brought up seven digs each for the Lady Raiders.

Festus stretched an 11-10 edge in game one by taking 14 of the next 20 points. Garmon sparked the separation with a pair of kills while North County sent two ensuing attacks out of bounds.

Gaugel deflected a series of incoming spikes back over the net to bring the Lady Raiders within 22-16, but not before Wenzelberger spiked off a block to establish a 21-12 Festus margin.

North County led 3-1 out of the gate when a Winch kill preceded two Forrester aces.

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