WARDSVILLE -- For the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons, the road to a Tri-County Conference volleyball championship has had to go through the California Lady Pintos for the past several seasons.
After Thursday night, that road to a title became much shorter.
Blair Oaks capped a big week in the race for a 13th consecutive Tri-County title, sweeping California 25-21, 25-22, 25-11 at Blair Oaks High School.
“Overall, we came out pretty strong,” Blair Oaks coach Danielle Lueckenhoff said. “They’re a pretty scrappy team, but our side, we dominated, for sure.”
A kill by Bailey Braun started a 4-0 run in the first set for the Lady Falcons, who never trailed until the second set. Autumn Bax had back-to-back kills, then Gabby Horn served an ace to extend the Blair Oaks lead to 16-10.
“Those back-to-back kills really helped us gain that momentum, so we could push through the rest of that set,” Lueckenhoff said.
California battled back, taking advantage of a pair of attack errors by Blair Oaks. Amberlie Traver then served an ace to tie the score at 21.
Following a Blair Oaks timeout, the Lady Falcons ended the set on a 4-0 run. California had an attack error, Libby Juergensmeyer served an ace and then Bax had two more consecutive kills.
Bax led the Lady Falcons with 18 kills, finding perfect placement on several of them, either in the back corners or in the middle of the California defense.
“She works with our other girls to identify some spots that she needs to swing to, and then she executes,” Lueckenhoff said.
Braun added 12 kills for the Lady Falcons, getting five of them in the first set.
“She’s got a great swing, and tonight she had that confidence to do well,” Lueckenhoff said.
The second set was a back-and-forth battle, until Gabby Horn got a kill on a free ball to put the Lady Falcons in front 10-9. Juergensmeyer served another ace, then Aubrey Sandbothe had a block to give Blair Oaks some breathing room in the set.
Bax made two saves on digs during one volley, which ended with a California attack error and made the score 23-19.
“We had a couple of plays where our girls just out-hustled them,” Lueckenhoff said. “We got the ball back and put some kills down.”
The third set was never close, with Blair Oaks reeling off an 8-0 run. Bax had four kills during that stretch, while California committed three errors to widen the gap to 11-3.
“In our huddle before we came out, the girls decided that was going to be their game,” Lueckenhoff said. “They came out ready to go and firing away.”
Blair Oaks led by as many as 16 points in the third set.
Juergensmeyer finished the night with 40 assists, giving her 441 assists through 17 matches this season. In addition to navigating the Blair Oaks offense, the senior also finished with a pair of kills on setter dumps.
“She really has become dynamic with what happens in the front row,” Lueckenhoff said. “She’s been a little more open to swinging on that ball on that second touch. It’s giving her some confidence to stay strong at the net.”
Bax and Amber Samson had 13 digs, Horn finished with nine kills and five aces and Sandbothe tallied four blocks for the Lady Falcons.
Macie Trimble led the Lady Pintos with four kills and eight blocks, while Reagan Moseley and Penelope Cotten each had three kills.
California (6-4-2) fell to 0-3 in conference play. The Lady Pintos are playing without senior all-conference outside hitter Isabella Kincaid, who suffered a knee injury during the offseason.
“They have some great, quality girls,” Lueckenhoff said. “They’re really, really scrappy, which presented a big challenge for us.”
Blair Oaks (13-3-1), which is now 4-0 in the Tri-County, has won 62 consecutive conference matches. The Lady Falcons can wrap up a conference title in the next two weeks, hosting Hallsville next Thursday and playing Sept. 25 at Southern Boone.
“The girls want to take that championship again,” Lueckenhoff said. “We’re two away.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday. Blair Oaks hosts Jefferson City and California goes to Capital City.
In the JV match, Blair Oaks defeated California 25-17, 26-24 to move to 10-1-1.
Kylie Hickman had six kills and two blocks for the Lady Falcons, while Anna Prenger had eight assists and four aces. Kendall Wood and Sarah Sandbothe finished with 11 and seven digs, respectively.
In the freshman match, Blair Oaks dropped to 6-4-2 with a 20-25, 25-21, 13-15 loss to California.
Mia Antweiler and Macee Rademan each had five kills for the Lady Falcons and Antweiler also served four aces. Morgan Wilde tallied 15 assists and four aces and Hattie Meldrum finished with seven digs.