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Lively leads the response as Mehlville tops Whitfield; De Smet sweeps Fort Zumwalt East

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05/20/22 - C3 Quarterfinals - Whitfield vs Mehlville

Mehlville Panthers senior middle hitter Rolen Lively  (12) hits against the blocking of Whitfield Warriors junior middle blocker Quinn Hoerman (9) during the Class 3 quarterfinals match on Friday, May 20, 2022 at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo. Rick Ulreich, Special to STLhighschoolsports.com

WILDWOOD — The pep talk for the Mehlville boys volleyball team before Friday’s match proved to be prophetic.

“We're in state now, every team's come to play,” Mehlville senior Rolen Lively said. “And we talked about that we're ready to lose sets, and we're ready to bounce back and it's how we respond at this point.”

Lively led the way as the Panthers certainly responded after dropping the first set against Whitfield in their Class 3 quarterfinal match at Lafayette High. The 6-foot-8 middle hitter blasted 19 kills with three blocks as Mehlville came back to beat the Warriors 22-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-15.

Mehlville (22-9-1), No. 3 in the STLhighschoolsports.com small school rankings, will play either No. 2 St. Dominic (25-3-1) or No. 5 Webster Groves (23-7-1) in the semifinals at Maryville University on Wednesday. Those teams will play their quarterfinal on Saturday.

“We faced some adversity recently and I think the biggest thing for us is just having the mentality that when we get to the postseason, anybody can win,” Mehlville coach Mark Leininger said. “Everybody has to be on, everybody has to be engaged, and to be able to play a really really talented team that really pushed us to our limit there in the first set and respond the way we did is awesome.”

Tyler Reitz added 13 kills and Josh Kaemmerer had 45 assists for Mehlville.

Kaeden Anderson had 13 kills and Stuart McKown added eight spikes for Whitfield (14-13-2). Dean Warren and Max Ott combined for 29 assists for the Warriors, who were appearing in their first quarterfinal and finished with the program’s first winning record.

“If you look at we were at three years ago, we had one win that year,” Whitfield coach Rob Kampen said. “These seniors have stepped through a lot and it's been tough for them and they've been super committed to the program and for them to be able to see it get to this point is gratifying for me.”

Whitfield pulled ahead late in the first set with a 7-2 run sparked by an ace from Zach Kampen, a couple of big swings from Anderson and a block from Warren as the Warriors took the opener.

“It was all about energy and bringing it all back, even though we lost that first set,” Kaemmerer said.

Lively put down four early spikes as Mehlville wasted no time taking control of the second set. Reitz added a spike and a block and Kaemmerer and John Raquepaw each had an ace as the Panthers evened the match at a set apiece.

“Our serve receive was lights out the first set and it broke down a little bit,” Rob Kampen said. “We didn't pass as well. We weren't getting as good of swings and we couldn't put them on their heels and when they're running in system, they are hard to stop.”

Lively continued his barrage in the third set with five kills and a pair of blocks. Isaac Vandyke and Reitz combined for five spikes and two blocks as the Panthers took a 2-1 lead.

Reitz put down three kills and Lively and Vandyke also had some big swings as Mehlville took a 10-3 lead and never looked back in the fourth set.

“When you open up Rolen Lively, it opens up all sides of the court, back row, front row, everything,” Kaemmerer said.

Mehlville is making its first trip to the semifinals since 2019. Lively was on the bench for that team and watched his older brother, Ryan, lead the Panthers to the Class 3 championship match.

“He led by example,” Rolen Lively said. “And I really do want to follow in his footsteps and even one up him by actually winning it this year.”

DE SMET SWEEPS FORT ZUMWALT EAST

The No. 1 ranked Spartans swept the Lions in the earlier quarterfinal 25-8, 25-10, 25-17.

De Smet (28-6-1) will play either Parkway West (20-11-2) or Affton (18-10-1) in the semifinals at Maryville University on Wednesday night. Those two teams will play their quarterfinal on Saturday.

Zumwalt East (15-11-3) had its most successful season in program history setting the school record for wins, finishing above .500 in the GAC Conference for the first time and advancing to its second quarterfinal appearance.

“This group of seniors actually promoted volleyball for me and now my JV and my freshman squads have winning records too and the program is starting to develop,” Zumwalt East coach Greg Fischer said. “It's awesome to see because usually we're a layup and hopefully we're not a layup anymore.”

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