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Westminster benefits from ‘tremendous leadership’ on volleyball court

The Westminster Wildcats are the new Class 3 state volleyball champions.

The Westminster Wildcats are the new Class 3 state volleyball champions.

The Westminster Christian Academy 2015 Wildcats won the Class 3 championship boys volleyball match but coach Jean Evans says it belongs to more than just the athletes.

“I’m thrilled to win a state title, especially for my kids who have worked so very hard,” Evans said. “We have had a lot of great kids come through our program, and many of our alumni come out to practices and help out. This title belongs to all of them.”

Westminster (25-11) earned the title with a 25-22, 25-19 win over Cape Girardeau Notre Dame (16-8).

“Every time I think about it, I feel the exhilaration all over again,” Evans said.

Coming off a 10-21 season after finishing second in 2013 with a 22-8 record, Evans thought this team had a chance to do something special.

“Once practice started, I saw how much the guys had improved,” Evans said. “I thought we had a shot.”

Emerging from pool play in the beginning of the postseason, the Wildcats got past St. Mary’s in the quarterfinals, and then faced a good team in Fort Zumwalt South.

“Fort Zumwalt South played great, so we really had to step up our game,” Evans said. The guys stayed disciplined and we came out with the win.”

That set up the title tilt with Cape Notre Dame. The Bulldogs were considered to be favored in the matchup and they fought hard in the first game.

“Cape came out with a ton of energy and confidence. They had cruised through to the title game, and everyone expected them to win,” Evans said.

“Winning the first game was huge, as it may have caught Cape off guard. Between games we discussed how we needed to play better in the second set and have fewer unforced errors.

“In the second half, we got off to a big lead, and then we blew it and found ourselves behind again,” Evans said. “They were scoring a lot of points when Cameron Hibbler was in the back row. We managed to pull ahead by one, and then Cam rotated back to the server’s spot.”

The last point is one Evans won’t soon forget.

“Cameron had served several aces and tough serves in a row,” Evans said. “On the final point, he gave them another tough serve that they managed to pass up to the setter.

“The setter gave a good ball-to-the-outside hitter, but our blockers Jimmy Thomas and Michael Thoenen were in position and blocked it straight to the floor.”

Hibbler, a senior outside hitter, had 25 kills. Evans said anyone who saw him play will remember what he did.

“Cameron had the best performance by a high school volleyball player that I have ever witnessed,” Evans said.

He noted several Wildcats stood out with their play.

“Tim Burford served well and played great defense. Ben Gienke and Jonny Parker also played great defense, and would not let the ball hit the floor,” Evans said. “Middle blocker Michael Thoenen had four blocks for points, and many more touches on the ball. It was a great team effort.”

Hibbler was named MVP of the state tournament.

Senior Ricky Brenneman stood out with 25 assists in the win and was named to the first team all-state.  Burford was named to the second team.

“Ricky has gotten better all season, and he played outstandingly during the state playoffs,” Evans said. “He never gives up on a ball. In addition to setting, he had a ton of digs and served well for us.”

Hibbler and Brenneman were captains along with Burford and Gienke.

“All of them showed tremendous leadership, which is why we won,” Evans said. “They were talking to each other and encouraging each other the entire time.

“I could not have asked for anything more than what they gave.”

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