When there are only two teams left to play, the sad fact is that only one team can win.
The Lafayette Lancers finished second in Class 4 volleyball for the second consecutive year. This time, Nixa scored a 25-17, 25-22 victory to earn its first state championship.
Lancers coach Zach Young and his girls have been on the other side, winning six state championships. So, to get that close to adding a seventh crown, it hurts.
“Our team was very disappointed,” Young said. “But there are over 100 teams that would have loved to been in their shoes to have the opportunity to play in a state championship match and take home a second-place state trophy. It’s a great accomplishment. We had a good year.”
Indeed. Lafayette finished with a 30-9 record.
“We were very excited to get back to the Final Four, especially with how difficult our road there was,” Young said. “We knew from the start of the season that this team had potential to be very good.”
Lafayette earned a berth in the state championship match after surviving pool play.
In its first match, Lafayette recorded a 25-16, 27-29 split against Liberty.
“The first game, our team was very focused and played well,” Young said. “The second set we weren’t quite as sharp and Liberty played much better.”
In their second match, the Lancers split with Nixa 25-19, 22-25.
“We were very engaged in the Nixa match and played pretty well. After beating them the first set, we were actually up 19-12 in the second before they caught fire to take the game.”
That left Lafayette to play Francis Howell Central in its final pool play match.
“Going into our last match, we had to win at least one game and even if we won both we weren’t automatically in the final,” Young said. “If Nixa and Liberty split and we won both, then three teams would be at 4-2 and it would come down to points and there would be a playoff. If Nixa or Liberty won both and we split, then two teams would be 3-3 and there would be a playoff.
“As it turns out though, we won both and Nixa won both to set up the final.
Lafayette did beat Francis Howell Central 25-18, 25-17.
“The Howell Central match wasn’t our best of the day, but we managed to squeak out the win,” Young said.
But Nixa would not be deterred in capturing its first state championship. Young said Nixa was a tough foe for Lancers.
“Nixa is so tough and can attack you from different areas,” Young said. “They have a great setter and defense, and are very well coached.”
The final score of the match was 25-17, 25-22.
“The first set they jumped out early and we made some mistakes and were never really able to get into the game,” Young said. “The second set they jumped out again, but we responded to close the deficit to 21-22 before they went on to win the match. Nixa was a team that came into the match hungry and was not to be denied.
“I’m proud of our team for all that we accomplished this season, we just came up a little short in the big one.”
Morgan Isenberg led the way at state for Lafayette with 19 kills and 10 blocks. Brooke Borgmeyer added 19 kills. Allison Beaton had 16 kills and eight blocks. Shannon McLain had 75 assists. Maggie Rogan had 46 digs.
The Lafayette program remains an elite one in the state. The Lancers have won their six titles in last nine seasons and finished second in two others.
Young said that’s a run to be remembered.
“It’s crazy to think that our program has been in eight out of the last nine state championship matches, especially when you think about all of the great teams and coaches around the state,” Young said. “I think it speaks to the work ethic and commitment of our players, parents, and coaches to have a goal each year of reaching our maximum potential and seeing where that leads us.”
The Lancers lose seven seniors this year. Lafayette will return eight players that saw time on the varsity level this season.
Young believes his team will remain competitive.
“While we’re losing some really good seniors, I think there are some really nice players returning,” Young said. “If they step up their game and bring positive leadership, then we have a chance to be in the mix again next season.”