Last weekend marked the end of three years of frustration for the Francis Howell girls volleyball team.
The Vikings had been bounced from the quarterfinal round by Marquette in 2013, and then St. Joseph’s Academy the past two seasons.
Then last Saturday arrived and the Vikings, hosting the quarterfinals on their own floor, made sure they claimed their spot for the Class 4 tournament.
Howell dispatched Gateway Athletic Conference South division rival Timberland 25-16, and 25-12 to advance to the school’s second state tournament berth since 2012.
“For Timberland, we’ve kind of been up and down with them, so I was little more nervous with them, but after the first set we just played our game and I just had that much more confidence that we could make it (to state) this year,” said Francis Howell senior setter Kennedy Cordia.
Cordia, who is headed to St. Louis University to play volleyball next fall, was huge throughout the match with her setting for the Vikings as she dished out 25 assists in helping the Vikings blow open a 7-7 second set with runs of six and four points to jump to a nine-point lead that would propel the Vikings into the semifinals.
“We were on a roll and we were’nt going to stop,” Cordia said.
“Kennedy has an amazing talent to just put the ball to where the hitter needs it to put it away,” Viking coach Stacey Smith said. “She is a real steady player
Mikayla Hardy and Emma Witter came up big along the front line with 14 and nine kills respectively.
The Vikings also got a major boost from middle hitter Taylor Litteken, who came back from an injured ankle in the district championship three days earlier and chipped in five kills.
“Taylor did a really good job and I don’t know if she was a mobile ass she was usually but she made up for it with some really timely kills in the match,” Smith said.
Howell (35-1-1) advanced to the quarterfinal match earlier in the day by defeating Parkway West in a sectional match 25-12, 25-21.
“Parkway West, we got off to a pretty fast start and we attacked from the serving line quite a bit,” Smith said. “In the second set, they (Parkway West) had a little late rally but we held them off.”
Being able to win in the quarterfinals at home after getting stopped by St. Joe’s the past two years brought a special sense of accomplishment for the Vikings players.
“My whole high school career we’ve been playing St. Joe’s and losing and just to finish my career with a trip to state just makes it that much more memorable,” Cordia said.
Howell, winners of 23 straight matches, will open the tournament in Cape Girardeau Friday at the Southeast Missouri State University Show-Me Center at 4 p.m. with a pool-play match against Ozark (27-9). That match will be followed by a 6 p.m. match against St. Theresa’s, and then an 8 p.m. match against Lafayette in the pool play portion of the tourney.
Those matches will determine the championship and third place matches on Saturday.
“I’m expecting a really competitive match with everybody we play at state,” Cordia said. “I hope we play the best we can and hope the outcome is what we’ve been waiting for this whole year.”