Lady Cubs hope to hang up another state title
WARRENSBURG - Bell City's volleyball team has qualified for the Class 1 Final Four.
The Lady Cubs will be joined in Warrensburg by Eminence, Lockwood and Crest Ridge. The teams will play round-robin games Friday with the championship and third-place games Saturday.
"We are very excited to be in the Final Four," said Bell City head coach Erin Hoffman. "The girls are very proud of what they've done. We figure since we've gone this far, why not go all the way? That's the attitude right now."
Bell City (23-9) clinched its Final Four berth by beating Gideon 25-15, 23-23, 25-17 in the sectional round and then outlasting Bismarck 25-23, 26-24 in the quarterfinal.
"With the year we've had, making it this far has been kind of surprising," said Hoffman. "It didn't seem like an option at the beginning, but we started to pick it up toward the end. I started to see a different team and I started seeing a lot of heart out of my seniors. I think that's what got us here."
The state semifinals will take place at the CMSU Multipurpose Building in Warrensburg. Bell City will face Eminence in the first game at 10 a.m. on Friday, then will play Crest Ridge at 12 p.m., then Lockwood at 2 p.m.
The finals will be played at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The third-place game will be at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The team is led by junior Katie Niemczyk and senior Whitney Abner.
"(Niemczyk) is a very solid and consistent player, all the way around," said Hoffman. "She does it all. (Abner) is our setter, so she makes a lot of decisions for our team. She has been a big part of this team the last two weeks."
Bell City's last trip two the Final Four came back in 1996, under the direction of Carl Ritter. The Lady Cubs won state that year, beating New Haven in the finals 15-10, 15-8. Hoffman is hoping her team can bring another state championship banner back to Bell City.
"That was one of our goals and one of our dreams," said Hoffman. "I think we've had a really up-and-down season, so we pretty much just take it one game to the next."
Southeast Missouri teams have a good track record at state. Leopold won state last year in Class 1. Bernie won Class 1 in '94, '95, '98 and '99, then Class 2 in '96.
Bloomfield won state in Class 2 in '92 and Zalma won it in Class 1 '90.
"We are probably the last team expected to be here," said Hoffman. "No matter what happens, I think everybody back home is going to be pretty proud."