As the Cape Central Tigers defeated the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs in three games 20-25, 25-22, 25-14, middle hitters Wendi Zickfield and Martika Davis developed an intense battle of their own.
Zickfield, who had 11 kills and six blocks for Cape Central (9-5-2 overall), provided many of the answers as Davis, who had 11 kills and four blocks for Sikeston (3-4-1 overall), attacked the net.
"They are a couple of the premier hard-hitting middles we have in this area," Sikeston coach Steve Beydler said. "When it comes to hard-hitting, they are extremely good. Cape Central was able to beat us as the middles (Zickfield and Davis) were jousting back-and-forth and the ball stayed alive."
"Wendi has a role on this team, and this is to be one of our leaders," Cape Central coach Charity Huff said. "She does that by being a constant force in the middle for us and by leading us in our wins."
Underwood, who finished with a match-high eight blocks, added four kills and a 9-of-9 effort at the serving line that included one ace. Beydler, who assisted on 20 Sikeston kills, was 12-of-12 in serving and contributed three kills.
Game 1 was a nip-and-tuck set that featured seven ties and three lead changes. With the exception of the final margin, two of Sikeston's biggest leads with three-point differences at 9-6 (on a kill by Underwood) and 23-20. Cape Central enjoyed only one lead (13-12) throughout the initial game.
Of the four kills Davis posted in Game 1, two of them broke ties to give Sikeston the lead (at 4-3 and 7-6) and two of them helped the Lady Bulldogs extend their leads (at 6-4 and 16-14).
Zickfield tied Game 1 at 3 with an ace, while her one of her two kills in the first set tied the score at 10. The Tigers received at least one kill from five different players (Zickfield, Rita Walter, Megan Brandt, Taylor Kirn and Carissa Wheeler) in Game 1.
Walter finished the match with five kills and four blocks for Cape Central, which received 19 assists from setter Katie Scholl.
"Cape Central won the Silver bracket at the BA Sports Tournament on Saturday and they had some momentum built up from that," coach Beydler said. "One of our goals was to take some of that momentum away, and we did that by winning a very close set in Game 1."
"My goal for this match was to have team unity out on that floor," Huff said. "I wanted to see us talking, trusting one-another, and basically having us work together as one unit. We wanted to capitalize on our success from the weekend."
In Game 2, Zickfield tied the score at 7 with a kill before stepping to the serving line to generate an ace. It was the Tigers' first lead of the middle set after Sikeston had rallied from a 5-1 deficit. Davis sparked the Lady Bulldogs' comeback with a trio of kills during a 6-2 scoring run.
The teams battled evenly for control of the next 19 points. When Zickfield's kill tied Game 12 at 18, Davis reponsed by altering the direction of her hits against her counterpart. Two consecutive kills later, the Lady Bulldogs' middle hitter staked Sikeston to a 20-18 advantage.
But Cape Central would not be denied. The Tigers scored seven of the final nine points in Game 2 by turning to Zickfield, who provided a block and a kill along the way, and Wheeler, who dropped an ace in front of the Sikeston defense.
Coach Beydler, who inserted Alli Harper into the Sikeston lineup at libero, said it may take a while for the Lady Bulldogs to work out some communication kinks on the court.
"The communication, at times, wasn't quite what I like to see," Beydler said. "It's something that we're going to have address, even though we're right back on the court in Puxico (at 7 p.m. today). It may have to wait until we practice in the field house on Wednesday."
In Game 3, Walter's kill broke an 8-all tie before the Tigers scored 16 of the final 22 points in the match. During that stretch, Sikeston received a total of three kills (from Underwood, Beydler and Keyarra Blissett) on its final six points. Cape Central had eight kills (three from Zickfield) and two aces as it sealed the match.
For Sikeston, Blissett finished with three kills, two blocks and delivered an 8-
of-9 effort at the serving line that included an ace.
Cape Central won the junior varsity match over Sikeston 25-15, 25-12.