Fatima wins another district volleyball title

WESTPHALIA — It’s becoming a common occurrence, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet.

For the third straight year, the Fatima volleyball team has won a district championship. Now Lady Comets are hoping to keep alive another streak by advancing to the Final Four for the third straight time.

The Lady Comets took the first step toward that goal by capturing the Class 2 District 7 title Tuesday night, beating Blair Oaks 25-11, 25-16 in the championship match.

“To be honest, I am thrilled with what this team has accomplished,” Fatima coach Mark Bockstruck said. “Losing seven seniors last year (off the state-championship team), a lot of people counted us out. And here we are again, going to sectionals.

“No matter what happens, I’m very proud and happy about what they’ve done this year, they should be prod of themselves. People counted us out and the girls have done a good job.”

The win means Fatima (28-4-1) will play Saturday in the sectional/quarterfinal round at Hermann. The Lady Comets open against District 8 champion Lutheran: St. Peters (22-5-1) at 1 p.m. With a win, they would play at 4 p.m. against the winner of the other sectional between Hermann (21-13) and the District 5 champion.

“It isn’t going to be easy,” Bockstruck said. “The first team we go up against is going to be Lutheran, and they beat the No. 1 team in Class 3 (St. Francis Borgia) the last week before districts. It’s going to be hard.

“And if we find a way to beat them, we’ve probably got to play Hermann on their home court. So I feel like if we can find a way to get through that, we’ve got a good shot again. But it isn’t going to be easy. The next three days we’re going to be practicing our tails off and doing everything we can to go out and be successful.”

III

The key to Tuesday night’s championship proved to be simple — the top-seeded Lady Comets were able to get into their offense with ease, while the second-seeded Lady Falcons never could.

Fatima did a great job of getting a first- ball sideout nearly every time Blair Oaks went back to serve. In the first game, the Lady Comets were 10-for-11 in that category, then went 10-for-13 in the second game.

“Passing dictates level of play, everybody knows it,” Bockstruck said. “We work on passing all the time. Every day in practice we spend at least 80 percent of the time on passing. I think we did a pretty good job. We’ve done a pretty good job all year.”

Their passing allowed the Lady Comets to have a wealth of options on their sets, as they ended the match having six players with two or more kills each. Haley Luebbering and Kenadi Huhn led the way with seven apiece.

Blair Oaks, meanwhile, had trouble running its offense consistently.

“We were not in our system at all,” Blair Oaks coach Joy Northweather said. “Even against California (in the semifinals), we played with a lot of heart, but there were very few plays I felt we actually got into our system. ... We never got our offense going at all. You can’t side out if you can’t get your offense going. We had some good practices the last two days, I was really looking forward to the game.”

Blair Oaks started the match hot and took an early 4-3 lead when Allison Maxwell put down a kill.

“We started off the match fine, it seemed to me like we were on target to have pretty close, exciting match,” Northweather said.

The Lady Comets then got a sideout on a kill by Huhn, then got back-to-back kills by Luebbering. They never trailed again in the match.

Fatima kept building its lead in that game, with the largest edge coming at 23-10, before closing it out. The Lady Comets then ripped off the first four points of the second game to keep the momentum on their side.

Fatima took its biggest lead of that game at 14-3 before holding off a late Blair Oaks rally.

Bockstruck said he was somewhat surprised by the result, especially considering middle hitter Kayla Nilges had missed a week of preparation leading up to the match.

“Honestly, we struggled this week,” he said. “We had Kayla out — she came down on somebody’s else’s foot in gym class last Tuesday and rolled her ankle. So we practiced with a new rotation all week. ... Kayla came back (Monday) in her first practice and looked like she could handle it and I think she did very well.”

Nilges ended up with three kills and three blocks in the match, while Shelby Thoenen also had three kills. Emily Keilholz dished out 20 assists while her sister, Angela, racked up 12 digs.

Maxwell, Paige Stockman and Maggie Hoskins had three kills apiece to pace Blair Oaks (26-4-1), while Lizzie Rosslan had seven assists.

“I thought (Blair Oaks) did pretty good for being as young as they are,” Bockstruck said. “They’re going to be really tough in the years to come.”

III

Fatima advanced to the title match by dismantling Eugene 25-6, 25-5 in the semifinals.

Nilges racked up eight kills in that match, while Huhn had six and four aces. Emily Keilholz had 18 assists, Angela Keilholz had 10 digs and Luebbering had three aces.

Sierra Procter had one block and one kill to pace fourth-seeded Eugene (8-16-2), while Molly Kraus had one kill and Sarah Pringer had one assist.

Blair Oaks advanced to the final by recording an emotional 27-25, 25-22 win over third-seeded California.

The Lady Pintos raced out to a 13-8 lead in the opening game, with University of Missouri recruit Sydney Deeken racking up five kills. California’s biggest lead came at 16-10 before Blair Oaks started to chip away at the lead.

The game was tied nine different times, the last at 25, before a serving error and a passing error by the Lady Pintos closed it out.

“California came out with a three-middle offense that caught us a little off-guard,” Northweather said. “I thought California looked like they might have given Fatima a better match. Great coaching on her part (California’s Julie Bailey) to switch that over.”

It was a similar story in the second game, with California going out early, taking a 5-2 lead on an ace by Deeken.

But Blair Oaks went on a 16-7 run to take control of the game, although its lead did dip to one point twice down the stretch.

Hoskins racked up eight kills for Blair Oaks in the win, while Stockman had five. Rosslan handed out nine assists.

Deeken ended up with eight kills in the match, although just one in the second game, and had three blocks. Adrienne Strickfaden had five kills, while Madilyn Safley had nine assists and Abby Lueckenotte had eight.

III

After the event, the all-tournament team was announced. The first team was made up of Fatima’s Shelby Thoenen, Blair Oaks’ Jessica Clark, Blair Oaks’ Paige Stockman, Blair Oaks’ Maggie Hoskins, Fatima’s Kayla Nilges and California’s Sydney Deeken. The second team consisted of California’s Caitlin Meyer, Blair Oaks’ Allison Maxwell, Fatima’s Angela Keilholz, California’s Abby Lueckenotte, Fatima’s Bailey Berhorst and Fatima’s Kenadi Huhn.

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