While the clouds let loose throughout Wednesday, Grain Valley’s volleyball team spent some late-afternoon and early-evening hours raining kills on the gym floor at Excelsior Springs High School.
With an offense that got better as the day wore on, the Eagles dispatched Oak Grove 25-17, 25-16 in the first semifinal, then rolled past the host Tigers 25-14, 25-9 to claim the Class 3, District 14 championship.
The Eagles take a 24-7-1 record into Saturday’s sectional round at Savannah High School against St. Pius X.
“We were pretty consistent. Going forward, we know we have to be a good passing team on offense,” Grain Valley coach Keri Peterson said after the Oak Grove match. “Overall we were smarter offensively. We didn’t try to swing aggressively every time, unlike the past few weeks.”
A few errant attacks and net serves by the Eagles helped Oak Grove whittle an 18-12 deficit down to 20-17 in the first set before a set kill from middle hitter Sarah Armstrong started the Eagles’ final run. Jordan Morrison teamed with Tori Squiers for a block and added a solo block and a kill, and Alex Turpin’s free ball set went unreturned for the final point.
The Eagles killed 18 of their points in the second game, six each from Morrison and Squiers. Grain Valley opened up leads of 11-3 and 17-9. Oak Grove (6-23-1) drew within 18-14 aided by a couple Sierra Smith kills, but Morrison’s tip kill near the pole started her team’s final push.
Squiers finished as the Eagles’ top hitter with 20 kills over the two matches, while Morrison tipped and pounded her way to 16. Armstrong added 10 kills and Devan Fairfield nine, Fairfield also tallied 25 digs and Megan Todd added 16.
“We’ve been working a lot on communicating as a team,” Morrison said. “We really focused a lot on serve receive. Our passes were really good, so that helps the offense a lot.”
Excelsior Springs (17-13), which scored the last three points to complete a 25-14, 25-23 sweep of Marshall in the second semifinal, forged an early 7-5 lead on Grain Valley thanks to a pair of blocks a kill from Samantha Bullock.
A kill from Armstrong started a 13-3 run that put the Eagles in control, and they finished the set with 14 kills by five players. Their attack didn’t slow in the second game, and Excelsior Springs helped out plenty with a dozen hitting errors, turning an early 5-4 score into a runaway.
“We knew they’d solo block in the middle,” Peterson said of the Tigers. “We wanted to take advantage of that, and our middles (Armstrong and Squiers) really stepped up.
Page 2 of 2 - “Obviously (passing) is important, and in practices we’ve really made it hard on them passing.”
Chandler Huttinger dished out 33 assists and Abby Winter added 27, as the Eagles’ solid passing from all areas led to a lucrative day for their setters.
“It was our best passing tonight, I thought, for the season,” Huttinger said. “I could set it to any hitter I wanted to because the defense was awesome.”
SMITHVILLE 25-25, VAN HORN 16-18: The Falcons finished the season 7-16-2 after being eliminated in the Class 3, District 15 Tournament at Northeast High School.