(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Easily controlling all four sets that they took to the floor on Thursday, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs claimed their fourth-straight SEMO Conference Championship with a straight set win over the Oran Lady Eagles 25-17, 25-10.
"That was the goal," Sikeston head coach Steve Beydler said of winning the title. "The girls wanted to do it one more time, especially that senior core. They wanted to end it one more time that way and they did."
Seeded first, the Lady Bulldogs opened the afternoon making quick work of the Charleston Lady Bluejays in the semifinals, winning in straight sets 25-9, 25-5, to advance to the championship game.
Once in the title game, Sikeston wasted little time putting the Lady Eagles in a big hole as an Asia Liggins' kill from center net put the Lady Bulldogs up 10-2.
Though the Lady Eagles called a timeout at trailing 17-9 to regroup, Sikeston continued to push forward until a Jalen Peet kill gave Sikeston a nine-point lead at 21-12.
Though the Lady Eagles rallied for four-straight points to close to within five at 21-16, Liggins blocked an Oran kill to set up game-point soon after at 24-17. Sikeston took the next point to seal the win.
"We had the momentum going and then we missed back-to-back serves and that kills you," Oran head coach Sara Heisserer said. "We beat ourselves on our serving. We had 29 missed serves on Tuesday night (pool play) and you're never going to beat a team playing like that."
Any momentum the Lady Eagles had built toward the end of the first game didn't translate to the second set as the Lady Bulldogs owned the set from the opening serve.
Following a kill from Quesha Howard to take possession from Oran on the first point, Sikeston's Trenice Greer took control behind the line and guided the Lady Bulldogs on a 13-0 to start the second set. Greer raked up four aces during the run and a center net kill by Liggins forced Oran to call a timeout down 11-0.
After the timeout, Greer connect for her fourth ace of the drive, followed by another Liggins kill before the Lady Eagles scored their first point on a missed serve by Greer.
"At the beginning (of the set) I wasn't sure if their goal wasn't to maybe bring it back over in one," Beydler said. "Because we have trouble with a team that slops the ball back. We've always had trouble with that. So I don't know if they were doing it on purpose or if they were just really having trouble keeping control of our serves.
"Ultimately it didn't matter because we ended up scoring points off of them."
For the rest of the set, Sikeston's assault on the net continued, pulling ahead to 23-8 before a Liggins kill set the Lady Bulldogs up at match point. Much like the set ended, with a Bulldog kill, Peet hammered down the final one of the night from the left side of the net to lock up the conference title.
"We played well," Liggins, a senior, said. "We were talking and moving our feet. Us knowing (Oran's) game really helped us a lot because they do a lot of tip it to the corners so we made sure we were on our toes terminating and just doing well as a team."
On the match, Liggins contributed 13 of the Lady Bulldogs 24 kills while adding two blocks to Sikeston's cause. Greer finished five aces, three kills and a block. Peet was second on the team in kills with four.
For the Lady Bulldog's recent success, Liggins credits the teams move to a 6-2 system, which they implemented in late-September.
"With this new rotation that we're doing I'm setting and so is Trenice Greer," said Liggins. "It's getting us moving quickly and both of us our getting our stats up and getting more kills. So it's pretty good."
In the two weeks since they made the switch, the Bulldogs have pushed their record to the .500 mark at 15-15 after holding a 9-13 mark on September 27.
"We went to a 6-2 because I wanted to get Trenice some swings and because it does two good things for us," Beydler said. "One is it's made Trenice a hitter and gave Asia something to shoot for because she has another person pushing her to try to beat.
"Then it pushes Jalen to the outside and Jalen can absolutely put the kills down if she has the ball set up high to out her. That what we're working on now, trying to get that finessed and we have about three more matches to work on it before we go to districts."
Showing similar results as in the championship game in the semifinals, the Bulldogs front line combined for 22 kills against Charleston as Peet and Liggins led the way with eight and seven kills respectively. Sikeston also had 11 aces on the match, including four by Liggins and three by Greer.
Leading Oran's five kill effort in the championship match, Addie Kielhofner had three while Molly Webb led the team in digs with seven. Kali Mills had a kill and four digs with Taylor Nenninger giving the Lady Eagles their only two aces.
Though Oran's title hopes may have been squashed, the Lady Eagles were able to pull out a three-set rally against New Madrid County Central in the semifinals to advance.
After dropping the first set 25-15, Oran pulled ahead 17-10 in the second set, forcing a NMCC timeout. Following a NMCC comeback to close to within 24-23, Oran was able to slam the door with a kill from Kali Mills.
With momentum in hand, the Lady Eagles went on an 8-1 run to start the third set before NMCC came back to tie. Oran was able to hold on to win, however, 25-18.
Mills had nine kills in the contest while Mills had eight.
Between semifinal matches, the All-SEMO Conference Tournament team was announced with both Greer and Liggins from Sikeston making the list as well as Mills and Allie Cummins of Oran. Rounding out the team was Alecia Nelson and Hunter Hewitt of NMCC.