Maryville volleyball expected to advance to the MSHSAA Class 3 District 16 Championship Oct. 29 and capture its first District Title in a decade Oct. 30.
However, mother nature decided to throw those plans for a loop. Due to the possibility of inclement weather, the Spoofhounds knocked out both tasks Oct 29, behind a three-set victory over Lafayette and a straight-set sweep over Excelsior Springs later in the night.
Maryville entered the District 16 tournament the No. 1 seed against a familiar field of Midland Empire Conference foes and Excelsior Springs. The ’Hounds went 6-3-1 against conference opponents during the regular season and won a meeting in three sets at Excelsior Springs Sept. 17. Maryville’s regular-season dominance earned them a bye to the district semifinal.
Lafayette beat Benton in straight sets Oct. 28 to earn the semifinal matchup against the ’Hounds. The Spoofhounds defeated the Irish in their last two meetings, but Lafayette took the first two matchups in conference play.
Miranda Foster, the first-year coach of the Spoofhounds, said the semifinal match had a Championship feel due to the packed stands and energy in the arena, and the tight contest helped cement those feelings.
“We battled point-for-point the entire match,” Foster said.
The ’Hounds’ biggest struggle was defending Lafayette’s senior setter, Ciah Rucker. Rucker had played a crucial role in what success the Irish had throughout the season.
“She’s a really good offensive setter,” Foster said. “It was great for us to go up against her again before going into the next part of our season.”
After the victory, the ’Hounds had an unusual break before the District Championship match. In a situation where the team was supposed to have 24 hours before its next game, it had about 90 minutes.
The team remained focused, Foster said, and believes watching Excelsior Springs defeat Savannah in three sets helped the team in the Championship match.
The belief cemented itself in the first set. After a slow start, Maryville took control and won the set 25-16. Excelsior Springs battled in the second set. The ’Hounds fought back from several lead changes to come out on top 25-22. Junior middle hitter Serena Sundell lead the Hounds with a combined 26 kills between the two matches.
Foster said her biggest goal heading into the postseason was reducing the pressure on Maryville’s side as much as possible.
“I can put myself in their shoes and remember that it did not necessarily help when coaches put pressure on us because we were so driven ourselves,” Foster said. “I hope they understand that I am a supporter for them.”
Foster says earning the team’s first district title in a decade was “indescribable” as a first-year coach. Being new to the team has helped her shift the team’s focus, Foster said, to control what the ’Hounds do on their side of the net, and she praised her players for their talent and camaraderie.
“Our chemistry has grown tremendously throughout the season,” Foster said. “It’s nice to see that continuing into the postseason. All the girls are on the same page, and we have the same goals.”
The ’Hounds advance to the MSHSAA Class 3 Sectional Nov. 2. Maryville will face the eventual District 13 Champion. Until then, Foster said the team is going to continue doing what they have been doing.
“Anytime we know what we are doing on our side, we can win,” Foster said.