CAPE GIRARDEAU • Despite the fact that the Francis Howell girls volleyball team went 0-6 in semifinal pool-play games at the Class 4 state tournament Friday, Vikings standout outside hitter Javoni Faucette vowed that it would come back on Saturday ready to battle.
“We have to get that third-place medal,” she said.
Things looked good for the Vikings when they won the first game over Ozark 25-23 the next day. However, the already banged-up Howell team looked more and more like a M*A*S*H unit as the match went on, and that loomed large as the Gateway Athletic Conference South champion dropped the final two games 25-13, 25-14.
“It was tough,” Faucette said. “We pulled through as much as we could. (But then) Mandy (Glon) went down (with a foot injury) in that second game. We all still worked hard to get our goal.”
However, losing Glon, who had so inspired the team by playing with a bum foot the whole season, proved too much for the Vikings to overcome. They had already lost standout outside hitter Danielle Rygelski, who blew out a knee in quarterfinal action, and the team’s third-best attacker, Bailey Sparkman, couldn’t swing at the state tournament because of a bum shoulder.
“We were just falling to pieces and scratching and clawing and trying to do everything we could to stay in it,” Howell coach Justin Young said. “We did fight to the end, without a doubt.”
Ozark coach Becky Justis said she could sympathize with the plight of the banged-up Vikings.
“We knew that one of their best players got hurt coming in here,” she said. “We had our second (best) outside hitter go down at district, so we know that feeling. And we probably just had a week more to adjust than they did. They did a great job.”
Although the season didn’t finish up like the Vikings hoped it would -- they finished fourth at state a second straight season -- their effort did nothing to take away from what was an outstanding career put together by the seniors on the team, including Faucette, Rygelski, Sparkman, Glon, Maddi Cordia and Natalie Brisso.
Led by that group, the Vikings won four consecutive district titles, two conference championships, tallied 111 wins and set the school record for wins in a season with 32 last year -- a mark this year’s team, which finished 31-9-2, came one victory short of matching.
That group set numerous individual records, too.
“These seniors definitely started a tradition, left their imprint on Francis Howell volleyball,” Young said.
None more than Faucette, who battled to the bitter end against Ozark. Late in the last game, with the Vikings’ fate pretty much sealed, she still layed out to try to keep a ball from hitting the floor.
“There’s no quit, especially in Javoni,” Young said. “That girl, she’s intense and tenacious on every point of every play, and that’s phenomenal. She’s going to continue that next year at (the University of) Louisville, and that’s going to be fun to watch.”
Faucette, who finished the 2012 season with a Howell record 399 kills and now ranks second overall in career kills with 1,002, said she had Rygelski in mind as she played her heart out in the final two games of her terrific career. She tallied a match-high 14 kills in the battle with Ozark.
“Every point was a fight for her, because we knew she wanted to be out there,” Faucette said of Rygelski. “Even though she couldn’t, she was cheering us on. It was great that we had one more person behind us.”
Rygelski, who has a Howitzer for a right arm, was good enough that she will play Division I ball at St. Louis University next year. The versatile Sparkman is headed for Division II Lewis University. Glon, Brisso and Cordia could be playing volleyball at the next level in 2013, too.
Sparkman said she relished the opportunity to play with her classmates during their distinguished careers.
“I feel so blessed and overjoyed to have the other six seniors with me,” she said. “We’re all good friends. We definitely left, I hope, a legacy at Howell. I know all the little girls, the underclassmen, they all look up to us, and we try to be good role models.”
Although the graduation of those seniors will hurt the Vikings next fall, they should still be very competitive. They'll return some talented players like Faucette's younger sister, Jade. The freshman squad, which went undefeated this season, and junior varsity teams were GAC South champs this year.
“Now it’s up to the underclassmen and the coaches to continue the tradition,” Young said.