By Michael Cignoli (ForOzarksSportsZone.com)
WILLARD — Earlier than the third set of Wednesday night time’s Class 4 District 9 championship sport, two Willard followers briefly left their seats, procured a pair of brooms from someplace in the highschool and proceeded to march them down the sideline in a way that nobody might miss.
By the center of the fourth set, the brooms had been protruding from a rubbish can.
Using a wave of momentum, Logan-Rogersville was out of the blue poised to drive a winner-take-all fifth set in opposition to the hosts. It was exactly the form of second the place the Tigers wanted their greatest gamers to take cost, and Maddy Bushnell and Payton Van Veen had been as much as the duty.
Led by the 2 seniors, Willard rallied again from an early fourth-set deficit to shut out Logan-Rogersville, 3-1, and declare the college’s seventh consecutive district title. The Tigers will go to District 11 champion Carl Junction on Saturday for the primary spherical of the state match.
“They actually got here on,” Willard coach Jamalee Hancock mentioned of the 2, who’ve dedicated to play faculty volleyball. “We didn’t appear to attach nicely in that third set and we received down early within the fourth set. Payton Van Veen actually stepped up — and Maddy too. Maddy is so gifted. Generally you are feeling like if she misses one or two, it’s an off night time. However she did such an ideal job.”
The Tigers took the primary two units 25-15 and 25-19, however Logan-Rogersville rallied for a 25-22 win within the third to keep away from the sweep. The Wildcats took a 7-2 lead within the fourth set earlier than Willard referred to as timeout. When play resumed, the hosts scored 23 of the subsequent 31 factors for a 25-15 win.
Bushnell, who will play at Missouri State, and Van Veen, who will play at Division II Washburn, took management of the sport with the Tigers down 11-7 within the fourth. With Taylor Crighton serving, the pair alternated kills to drag the Tigers inside one, and a Van Veen block evened the rating.
Bushnell added one other kill to place the hosts in entrance for good.
“We realized it was time to go,” mentioned Van Veen, who had a game-high 26 kills. “We actually needed that win. We realized we wanted to do every part for our crew. I feel everyone simply stepped up and every part was flowing rather well and we received completed what we wanted to get completed.”
Logan-Rogersville had an opportunity to drag even after Willard misplayed a ball and despatched it hovering again towards the gymnasium wall. What adopted was a Herculean defensive effort the place the Tigers chased down the ball and someway had been capable of ship it again over the web for some extent.
That made it 14-12 for the Tigers, and the Wildcats scored simply 3 times the remainder of the night time.
“You get a crew on their heels like that and so they battle again and find yourself profitable that time on an extended rally, that’s a momentum shift,” Wildcats coach Emily Hutcheson mentioned. “They had been capable of capitalize on that. We would have liked one other momentum shift like that to occur for us.”
It by no means materialized.
Hutcheson mentioned she instructed her crew to give attention to shutting down Bushnell and Van Veen within the third set and attempt to “rattle their cages” — forcing them to take photographs they in any other case wouldn’t take.
That labored for some time, however as soon as the pair received rolling once more they had been unstoppable. Their resurgence additionally opened the doorways for another Tigers to make performs — and Paige Durham, Paige Gayer and Sara Lawson every had key contributions because the Tigers pulled away in the long run.
“We have now 11 on varsity and so they all have a job and it has been simply essential for every of them to maintain shopping for into the crew idea — and so they have,” Hancock mentioned. “This has been probably the greatest groups in my 23 years so far as working collectively, being nice teammates and everyone giving 100% on daily basis. You realize, it’s simply enjoyable to see them succeed. They’re nice children.”
Willard opened the season 24-1-1 — the loss and tie coming to reigning Class 3 champion St. Francis Borgia at that college’s house match — however had misplaced two of three video games heading into the playoffs. After Wednesday’s win, they sit at 27-3-1 and have misplaced simply 13 units all season.
A type of units was in opposition to Carl Junction in a 3-1 victory on October 1 in Willard.
“It’s highschool volleyball,” Hancock mentioned. “Something can occur.”
Logan-Rogersville, which gained the Class 3 state title in 2018 and misplaced to St. Francis Borgia within the finals final season, completed its first 12 months beneath Hutcheson at 11-7-1. It’s the primary time since 2011 that the Wildcats didn’t win a district championship, ending a run of eight in a row.
They opened 2-5-1 as they adjusted to a brand new class, new coach, the commencement of state Participant of the Yr Birdie Hendrickson and one of many space’s hardest schedules. However that they had gone 6-1 earlier than a two-week shutdown that started on October 6, and gained three in a row upon returning.
The timing of the shutdown was significantly crippling, Hutcheson mentioned.
“We had been coming into the a part of our season the place they may actually construct some confidence and work on simply executing and operating our offense how we needed to run it coming into districts,” the coach added. “By having these two weeks off, it pressured us to attempt to make up for misplaced time proper after we received again in with one observe after which (taking part in a sport.) That was troublesome.”
The one factor that may have been harder is that if this system was shut down a couple of days later and the Wildcats missed the match solely. The very fact that they had an opportunity to compete — and gave Willard a run — after their tumultuous season made the outcome extra digestible.
“You at all times need the chance to compete and provides that ultimate push and present folks what you’re made from,” Hutcheson mentioned. “That’s what my crew did tonight. This season was not in useless in any respect. These women competed all season. They battled adversity the complete season — not that every other crew didn’t face adversity as nicely — however to return again after the quarantines and sure folks being out and shifting happening, these women took on these roles and so they performed their hearts out. They did it. They trusted one another and so they trusted me. A coach goals of stuff like that occuring. It simply makes my coronary heart so pleased that they got here out and did their greatest each night time.”