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Cor Jesu rambles past Kirkwood to claim seventh successive district crown

Cor Jesu rambles past Kirkwood to claim seventh successive district crown

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FRONTENAC — Jacqueline Beville heard the whispers.

The Cor Jesu junior knew the Chargers had their work cut out this season after losing nine seniors and six of seven regulars from last year's talented team.

"A lot of people underestimated us at the beginning of the year," the 5-foot-11 outside hitter said. "We're showing them who we are."

Cor Jesu, with an almost total roster turnover, is on a big-time roll after downing Kirkwood 25-16, 25-11, 25-18 in the Class 5 District 4 girls volleyball championship match Wednesday at St. Joseph's Academy.

The Chargers, who claimed their seventh successive district title, improved to 12-0 in what might have been considered a rebuilding year, at least at the start. They face either Oakville (11-1) or Mehlville (5-6) in a sectional contest Saturday.

Beville led a balanced attack with a match-high 16 kills. She was in total sync with junior setter Sidney Hogan.

"Losing all those seniors, we were kind of the underdogs this season — no one expected this of us," said junior hitter Kaylie Drysdale, who added six kills to the winning attack. "It gave us some drive. We're all pretty competitive and we want to show everyone that we're winning no matter what."

Belville and Drysdale have helped make the transition a smooth one. The two served as swing players last season but spent a good majority of their time on the junior varsity level. The pair combined for just 21 kills on the varsity team.

This time around, they are key cogs in a high-octane machine.

Cor Jesu coach Keith Price did not want to talk about his expectations for this season, yet he is obviously proud of his team's metamorphosis.

"We try to build a program and make sure our kids are prepared to be successful," Price said.

The Chargers, who have won 11 of their matches this season in three sets, were clicking on all cylinders against the gritty Pioneers (9-6), who upset St. Joseph's in a three-set sweep in the semifinal round on Tuesday.

"We didn't know if this would be our last game, so we had to give it everything," Belville said.

Cor Jesu trailed only once — 1-0 in the opening set — before taking charge. Gretchen Olson and Addison Erusha added power up front with four kills each. Junior libero Maddie Hoffman, the only returning starter from last year's 23-6 team, anchored a strong defensive effort.

"(Kirkwood) did a great job challenging us," Drysdale said. "We had to be ready — and we were."

Beville, a smooth swinging southpaw, took charge early with five kills in the opening set. Her back-to-back spikes, coupled with a nifty hit from Olson, pushed the advantage to 22-15. Hoffman's strong serve led to a tip from Grace Killion that closed out the opener.

Cor Jesu jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the second set behind four service points from Drysdale, who sports a deadly jump-serve. Kirkwood battled back to within 20-11 behind two kills from Margaret Mallow. But the Chargers reeled off five successive points — three from the serving of Ellie Biedenstein, to close out the set.

Kirkwood mounted a final stand in the third set climbing out of a hole to get to within 21-18 on kills from Olivia Williams and Tara Behnam.

The Chargers responded with a match-ending 4-0 run. Beville and Drysdale fueled the streak with eye-popping hits.

Kirkwood, which had won four of its previous five matches entering the contest, managed to stay within striking distance in all three sets.

"They served tough and we couldn't answer with our serve-receive tonight," Kirkwood coach Julie Goodmann said. "But I'm proud of these kids. They had a great night, we finally clicked."

Cor Jesu has reeled off nine successive winning seasons following an 11-20 record in 2011. They have been eliminated by Lafayette five times in the last six years.

"We're hoping Lafayette comes out of this because in the past years we just haven't beaten them," Drysdale said. "I think we're ready this year."

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