Volleyball Lady Hornets find flow, take second in own tourney

Sweep through pool play, fall to LeBlond in final

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
The 2021 Chillicothe High School volleyball Lady Hornets, coached by Bob Long, earned the second-place plaque in their own tournament Saturday, Sept. 18.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Only a few days removed from a major “downer” – blowing a 2-0 lead in games at Carrollton and losing that match, the 2021 Chillicothe High School varsity volleyball Lady Hornets showed a valuable short memory in their own tournament last Saturday, advancing all the way to the championship match before placing second.

Coming out of the gate strong with early-morning 25-13, 25-14 wins over Hamilton: Penney, the Lady Hornets punched their ticket to the afternoon’s 4-teams championship bracket with an ultra-tight 26-24, 25-23 verdict over Excelsior Springs, and then swept aside Richmond easily, 25-11, 25-13, to be the top seed from the tourney’s “red” pool in the bracket action.

Very surprisingly, they were joined there and matched in the semifinals against the junior-varsity Lady Hornets.

The CHS jayvees had brushed off an opening loss to tourney favorite and eventual champion St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond to dispatch Brookfield’s varsity 25-11, 25-16 and then down the same Carrollton squad the varsity had lost to days earlier by a 25-22, 25-23 count.

Not only did the JV Lady Hornets advance to the championship semifinals, they claimed the opening game of the best-of-3-games match with the varsity 25-22.

Gathering themselves – and with a deeper bench than the 9-members junior varsity, the varsity Lady Hornets set things straight in the next two games, winning 25-17 and 25-13, to gain a shot at the title against the Bishop LeBlond team which had downed them in three games two nights before.

The CHS girls gave a sturdier account of themselves the second time around against the strong Lady Golden Eagles and their fierce, effective senior outside hitter Kianna Herrera.

Despite the strong, high-jumping Herrera proving to be nearly unstoppable any time her teammates could set her up near the net, the Lady Hornets had some early leads in the opening game of the title match, getting ahead 4-2 d 5-3.

Even after BLHS ran off six points in a row to lead 9-5, the Chillicothe club steeled itself to square things at 12-12 midway through the game.

However, Bishop LeBlond’s relentless attacking pressure let it take the next three rallies to regain the lead for good. It boosted its lead to six points at 20-14 and won by that margin at 25-19.

Far from discouraged, the Lady Hornets cranked their game up farther in an attempt to force the match to a deciding third game, although they ultimately came up short of that goal.

The second game saw ties at 5 and 6 before it seemed the St. Joseph team had broken Chillicothe’s spirit with a run of winning seven of the next eight points.

Senior Claire Ripley of the 2021 Chillicothe High School volleyball Lady Hornets serves a point during the championship match versus St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond of the Sept. 18 Chillicothe Invitational tournament. Chillicothe finished second to cap a strong showing.

However, after being down 13-7, CHS surged back with senior Claire Ripley behind the service line. After winning the serve at 13-8, Ripley served five winning points in a row as the Lady Hornets drew even once more.

A trade of points left it a 14-14 game before a 4-0 spurt by BLHS at last gave it a measure of control. Behind 21-15 and seemingly out of time, Chillicothe refused to cave in. It inched within 23-18 and then three rallies in a row to narrow the gap to two points, 23-21.

However, the numbers were too much against the Lady Hornets as Bishop LeBlond won back the serve to move to the threshold of victory and secured it by winning that next serve, closing out CHS 25-21.

Like the varsity, the Chillicothe junior-varsity took it on the chin in its last match, falling to Excelsior Springs’ varsity 18-25, 14-25 in the third-place match.

Statistically during their own tournament, Chillicothe was led by senior outside hitter Gracie West’s 22 “kills” (spikes) and four blocks. Junior Anna Fisher shared the blocks lead. Junior Jessica Reeter had a team-most 26 assists and eight “digs,” while sophomore Delanie Kieffer served 17 aces.

With four match wins in five tries Saturday, the varsity Lady Hornets boosted their season record back above break-even at 6-4 heading into Monday home play against St. Joseph: Benton. On Tuesday, they’ll visit Cameron before coming back home tomorrow (Thursday) for a match with St. Joseph: Lafayette.