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Lafayette Lancers win fourth consecutive state volleyball title

Pure joy: Members of the Lafayette Lancers volleyball team celebrate after clinching the team’s fourth consecutive Class 4 title.

Pure joy: Members of the Lafayette Lancers volleyball team celebrate after clinching the team’s fourth consecutive Class 4 title.

The Lafayette volleyball program stands in elite company.

The Lancers became only the third school in state history to win four Class 4 girls state championships in a row. West Plains did it first from 1984-87. St. Joseph’s Academy accomplished it from 1990-93. Now, it’s Lafayette’s turn.

Lafayette (27-7-2) defeated St. Joseph’s Academy 25-20, 25-20 at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau Nov. 1.

It was the third title for coach Zach Young. Assistant coach Steve Burkard won the first championship before stepping down to become an assistant.

The Lancers had four starters back from last year’s (38-1-2) squad .

This season, Lafayette lost more than they had in the previous years. Still, they were ready to play in the Final Four.

“We had to get through a very tough sectional that included Cor Jesu (the No. 5-ranked team), which we beat 26-24 in the third game to get to state. I think after our match with them that our kids believed they could win in the clutch and that seemed to calm some nerves going into the state tournament.”

In pool play on the first day, all the teams play two sets with each other. The best two records play for the championship. Lafayette defeated Ozark 25-21, 28-26. Against St. Joseph’s, Lafayette won 25-15 but lost 25-18. The Lancers defeated Liberty 25-20 and then lost 25-21.

“Pool play this year at state may have been the most exciting that we’ve been a part of,” Young said. “We beat Ozark in two, but we were down 18-24 in the second set before coming back to win behind the strong serving of Lauren Flowers. We beat St. Joe in the first game and then lost.

“So our record was 3-1 going into our last match versus Liberty. St. Joe and Ozark had a one-game playoff to reach the championship due to a tie in pool play.”

That set up a rematch with the Angels. In the season opener, St. Joseph’s defeated Lafayette 23-25, 25-15, 25-22. But those scores became a distant memory at state.

“In each set, we were up by five or six points and then St. Joe would come roaring back and then we would pull away at the end of the game,” Young said. “We knew St. Joe had a great team defensively and that no lead was safe against them.

“There are a lot of teams that would lose their nerve in those situations. I credit our senior leadership for helping the team stay calm and sticking with our game plan.”

On the final point, Alayna Martin set Taryn Griffey in the middle and she hit the ball off a St. Joe blocker out of bounds.

That set off the celebration.

“The girls stormed the court hugging each other and falling into a dog pile,” said Young.

He said he also fell to his knees “in a moment of pure joy and excitement.”

All the Lancers contributed to the championship, Young said, but several girls stood out.

“Tori Roe was stellar in the back row collecting 54 digs, including 18 in the championship,” Young said. “Taryn Griffey really stepped up her game at state leading us in kills for the weekend with 29 and nine blocks. Allison Turner collected 28 kills including eight in the championship. Amanda Noel had 24 kills and nine blocks on the weekend. Alayna Martin ran the 5-1 offense and collected 88 assists at state.”

The Lancers are losing seven seniors this year to graduation. Still, the cupboard is not bare.

“We will return three starters and five total players that saw significant playing time this year,” Young said.

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