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story.lead_photo.caption Cate Albertson of Helias slams the ball over the net as Michelyn Appiah of Capital City goes for the block Tuesday during the Class 5 District 9 Tournament at Capital City High School. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman

It started off being quite the back-and-forth volleyball battle between the Helias Lady Crusaders and the Capital City Lady Cavaliers.

Then midway through the first set, the Lady Crusaders began to run away with it.

Helias advanced to the championship match of the Class 5 District 9 Tournament with a 25-10, 25-8, 25-9 semifinal win Tuesday against Capital City at Capital City High School.

"We haven't really come out with the energy and the focus right at the beginning that we really need," Helias coach David Harris said. "But they corrected things, and from then on, we played with a little more energy and a little more focus."

Capital City took a 2-1 lead in the first set after a kill by Michelyn Appiah. Kloey Strayhorn added a block, and an error by Helias kept the Lady Cavaliers in front 6-5.

"That was a very good battle to start," Capital City coach Kelsey Vogler said. "I was very excited going into this. I thought the girls were coming out and playing strong, and we were competing."

A block by Appiah evened the score at 8, but Helias finished the first set on a 17-2 run. Jacie Buschjost had three kills during that stretch, while Lauren Strope had two kills.

Landrey VanOverschelde served three of Helias' five aces during the run.

"I thought we served very well tonight," Harris said. "We served really tough. We hit the zones that I was giving them."

Helias never trailed the rest of the way, starting the second set on a 12-3 run and the third set on a 14-3 run.

"We've had a lot of unforced errors in our last few matches," Harris said. " We made some adjustments and corrections, and we did much better in the second and third sets."

Service errors also became an issue for the Lady Cavaliers.

"Our girls couldn't get that momentum because of our serves," Vogler said. "We kept missing serves. That was a momentum-killer for us."

Capital City had a handful of attack errors in Tuesday's match, but they were effort errors rather than mental errors.

"We were communicating, we were putting the ball up, we were trying to put it in play," Vogler said.

While the scores were lopsided, Capital City made Helias work for its points.

"I give Capital City credit, they were scrappy, they covered their hitters very well," Harris said. "We got some blocks, but they covered them and kept the ball alive."

Cate Albertson and Chapel Dobbs each had six kills to lead Helias. Strope finished with five kills and Buschjost and Beth Luebbert each had four.

VanOverschelde had a team-high 13 assists, while Audrey Cook had eight. Lacey Heidbrink and Annica Luebbering finished with 12 and 10 digs, respectively.

"Everybody got to play at least two sets," Harris said. "Those girls work in practice, and they deserve some playing time, too."

Kiara Strayhorn led the Lady Cavaliers with seven digs, two kills and one block.

The loss ends Capital City's second season with a 5-22-2 record. Next season will be the Lady Cavaliers' first year with seniors on the roster.

"In the locker room, we said tonight's done, the season's now officially done," Vogler said. "We didn't spend much time talking about our errors or what we did wrong. We looked at what our future holds.

"The most exciting part was the fact that we have everybody back next year, all 12 of those girls plus some coming up."

Helias (26-5-2), the No. 1 seed in the district, will face second-seeded Jefferson City in the district championship at 7 p.m. Thursday. Jefferson City (15-13-2) won Tuesday's other semifinal in three sets against Sedalia Smith-Cotton.

Helias won the regular-season contest in three sets, but Jefferson City is the reigning district champ, defeating the Lady Crusaders in three sets last fall.

"I think both teams have confidence going in that they can win," Harris said. "We've beaten them once, but I think they way they played and the way they came back in a couple sets, I think Jefferson City has confidence they can beat us if they play well.

"And we're probably going to play in front of the biggest crowd we've played all year. The level of excitement should be a good atmosphere."

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