EUREKA • Lafayette won a Missouri Class 4 state title last fall. However, the Lancers finished second to Oakville in the Suburban West Conference.
The Tigers aren’t ready to give up that league crown without a fight either, as they showed Wednesday. Led by seniors Jennifer Brendel and Sarah Makowski, who had 14 and 13 kills, respectively, visiting Oakville knocked off league rival Eureka 25-17, 21-25, 25-16 to improve to 2-0 in league play.
“It feels good, because we want our conference title back,” Brendel said. “We came into this knowing we would have to play hard for it, and that it wasn’t just going to come easy.”
It certainly wasn’t easy by any stretch for Oakville (9-2, No. 8 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings). Eureka (7-4, 1-1 and No. 10 large schools) gave the Tigers all they wanted before succumbing.
Brendel came through several times in the match but shined especially bright early in Game 3 with Oakville trailing 5-3. She scored a kill on a tip and then rolled off eight straight service points, including three aces, to help give the Tigers a comfortable 12-5 advantage.
“It was nerve-wracking, but I just tried to serve it where I thought it would be effective, and it ended up turning out pretty well, because I got a couple aces out of it,” Brendel said.
The Tigers never trailed by fewer than three points the rest of the way as they won their fourth straight match. Brendel and Makowski led the way in the third game with some effective attacks, and Eureka shot itself in the foot with some struggles at the service line down the stretch.
Oakville struggled with its passing in Game 1, which kept the Tigers from using Makowski, their standout middle hitter, effectively. However, with Oakville leading 15-14, she stepped up with two big kills and two huge blocks to turn the tide in that contest.
“You’ve got to make the plays to get the other girls excited,” Makowski said.
In Game 2, Eureka was the aggressor early, taking a 9-2 lead with middle hitter Casey Klages doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Oakville battled back, though, and the game was tight until the end when the Tigers made a couple of unforced errors and Klages recorded a kill and a block to help the Wildcats take the match to three sets.
“I think part of the problem is we walked into (the match) a little cocky,” Makowski said. “Eureka definitely is one we wanted to beat. We didn’t want to mess around.”
After making no unforced errors in the first game, Oakville didn’t play nearly as clean in Game 2.
“I think we were saving them all for the second game,” Oakville coach Morgan Lucas cracked.
Other statistical standouts in the match for the Tigers included Kristin Sazama, who had seven kills, Abby Pourcillie (11 digs) and Kayla Reeg (31 assists).
“We played really hard in the first and third games,” Makowski said. “We let up a little in the second game, which was a bummer.”
“Overall, I’m happy,” Oakville coach Morgan Lucas said. “We struggled a little bit tonight with service receives. We gave up too many points, had lots of overpasses and defensively we weren’t getting stops in the right spots. They’re a good team. They have a lot of quality hitters.”
The Wildcats were led by Klages, who had eight kills and 11 blocks, five of which were kill blocks. Alexa McAndrew (10 kills), Jory Siebenmorgan (eight kills), Abby Biggs (16 assists) and Shannon Goode (18 digs) also stood out for Eureka.
Eureka was hampered by a number of unforced errors in all three games.
“Once we do something right, we usually do more things right,” Eureka coach Deb Title said. “But when we do something wrong, a lot of times that’s followed by two more mistakes. We really need to work on that mental consistency. Just keeping the ball offensively-minded and constantly thinking about what we can do and bettering the ball.”