WARRENSBURG -- At this rate, Bell City's becoming a safe bet in volleyball final four situations.
The Cubs won the Class 1 state championship Saturday by defeating Lockwood 15-25, 25-23, 25-19 at the Central Missouri State University Multipurpose Building. It was Bell City's second championship after also winning the title in its only other final four trip in 1996.
The latest title came after a blowout 10-point loss in the first game that put Lockwood firmly in charge.
"That was the tightest we've looked in two or three weeks," Bell City coach Erin Hoffman said. "We just didn't look good at all."
The Cubs (26-9-1) were rocky right out of the gate and misplayed a host of dig opportunities that kept the offense grounded against Lockwood, a team that split with Bell City in two games during Friday's round-robin semifinals.
"I think we had a lot of nervous energy," Hoffman said. "We couldn't get into any kind of rhythm in that first game."
The second game opened with similar results, but that's when Hoffman called a timeout with Lockwood up 18-13.
"I was trying to get the girls to calm down," Hoffman said. "I was trying to point out the open spots where they could hit to and hopefully get a few side-outs and some points of the board."
The timeout helped. The Cubs roared back and tied Lockwood 20-20, then went on to take the match and force a deciding third game.
During the timeout, Hoffman "told us to believe in ourselves and not to give up," senior Sarah Scherer said. "She reminded some of us that we've wanted this since fourth grade, and we went out and took it."
The Cubs had little trouble in the third game after a back-and-forth start that saw them trade scores with the Tigers and commit a few errors.
"We knew we would win it," Scherer said. "We had so much heart -- that's why we won the game."
The Cubs were lead by Katie Niemczyk, who had 17 kills, and Whitney Abner, who was perfect on her 16 service attempts.
Niemczyk added 30 digs.
"This was a complete team effort tonight," Hoffman said. "Everybody did their jobs and just really believed in themselves, and that's why we're state champions."