The culmination of a lot of hard work, focus, and drive is now a happy reality for the St. Dominic volleyball team.
The Crusaders, focused on controlling what they could control after knocking off Class 4 runner up Francis Howell to win districts, are heading to Cape Girardeau this Friday for the Class 4 semifinals, thanks to an amazing 25-23, 28-26 quarterfinal sweep of host Timberland last Saturday.
“We really feel good about it and obviously we are super stoked,” St. Dominic coach Courtney Bland said. “Our girls played really good in both the Howell and Timberland games and I think our girls showed a ton of heart and drive and they were just dedicated all year.”
St. Dominic started the day on Saturday by sweeping Ritenour in two sets to win a sectional match.
That brought the Crusaders a quarterfinal date later in the day with Timberland, who swept past Parkway West in a sectional earlier in the day.
In a back and forth first game, the Crusaders surged to an 8-point lead but Timberland caught them with a late run to tie it at 23.
The Crusaders took advantage of a Wolves miscue and a Kelly Sitze kill to take the opening set.
In the second set, Timberland overcame a 3-point St. Dominic edge to lead most of the second set.
Senior middle hitter Lexi Burkemper keyed the comeback with some big kills and several well-placed tips and dinks that flummoxed the Wolves.
“That game was iconic and I don’t think we’ve ever played so hard,” Burkemper said. “Timberland’s a great team and we put in a lot of work and looked for their weakness and worked for our strengths and we came out with a win.”
Junior setter Allie Otten’s serving and play making also was a huge boost for the Crusaders in both sets. “Her serving was great that night and she just puts the ball where it needs to be,” Bland said.
Burkemper and Sitze, the Crusaders two seniors, have been the driving force behind St. Dominic’s first trip to state since 2008.
“They are both big contributors in the game and both middle (hitters) and I think everyone one wanted to do it for them because the have been excellent seniors and leaders and they really wanted this,” Bland said. “Especially, Lexi.”
St. Dominic (24-11-2) will take on St. Teresa’s Academy (25-4-2) on Friday in the semifinals. The championship match is set for Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
The thrill of going to state in her senior season is like no other for Burkemper.
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Burkemper said. “It’s a pretty great feeling. One that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”