CAPE GIRARDEAU — Lafayette didn’t panic.
After splitting its first two matches in Class 4 state semifinal pool play on Friday night, the Lancers knew they had to take care business against Francis Howell Central in their final match to have a chance to qualify for the title game.
But Central, which had already been relegated to the third-place match after dropping its first two, wasn’t going to cooperate. The Spartans excelled in the spoilers’ role jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the first set.
“At the beginning of the game it wasn’t going our way,” Lafayette libero Maggie Rogan said. “At that point it was either we do it or we don’t.”
As they have in so many clutch situations this decade, the Lancers did.
Lafayette stormed back to sweep Central 25-18, 25-17. At the same time, Nixa swept Liberty to help the Lancers clinch a spot in the championship.
Lafayette (31-8-2) will play Nixa (36-4-1) for the Class 4 title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Show Me Center. The Lancers will be playing for their seventh title in nine seasons.
“I think overall some of our kids just stayed calm,” Lafayette coach Zach Young. “We didn’t have any freak out moments. Our motto this year is, ‘With each other, for each other,’ and that came into play right there.”
Central (19-8-2), playing in its first state semifinal, did little wrong early against the Lancers.
“I tried to get them really loose because we hadn’t won a game yet,” Central coach Steven Le said. “Just be really loose and aggressive and see how it goes.”
Aces by Jenny Nguyen and Jordyn Lochmann helped Lafayette chip away at the deficit. The Lancers got breathing room with a late 6-0 run, paced by a pair of Lochmann kills and blocks from Allison Beaton and Allison Sink.
“We all looked at each other and we just knew what we had to do,” Rogan said. “One point at a time and that’s what we did.”
Lafayette broke open the second set with a 9-1 run to take a 19-11 lead and never looked back.
“This is state and there is a lot on the line here,” Beaton said. “We just kind of relaxed and started playing our game. We were over-thinking it in the beginning.”
Beaton and Morgan Isenberg each had seven kills for Lafayette against Central. Shannon McLain had 22 assists.
Kayla Steinmeyer put down seven spikes and Olivia Green added six for the Spartans. Emily Mundle and Rainna Ostmann combined for 18 assists.
After a strong start, Lafayette had to settle for a 25-16, 27-29 split against Liberty to open pool play. Brooke Borgmeyer, Beaton and Lochmann each had six kills for the Lancers, while McLain had 20 assists.
Lafayette again had to settle for a split in its second match after dropping the second to Nixa 25-19, 22-25. Borgmeyer had six kills, Beaton added five and McLain had 20 assists.
Nixa beat Lafayette twice in the regular season.
“They’re an incredible team,” Young said. “They play fast, they serve well, their setter’s really good, so I think it was a little bit of a confidence booster for our kids. We know if we play our game we’re a pretty good team too, but they’re tough. We’re going to have to play our best and see what happens tomorrow.”
Nixa swept Howell Central 25-19, 25-16 to begin pool play. Steinmeyer had 10 kills, Alexis Arnel put up 10 digs and Mundle and Ostmann combined for 16 assists for the Spartans.
Liberty officially sent Howell Central to the third-place match with a 25-20, 25-12 win in the second match for both teams. Steinmeyer had six spikes and Arnel put up 12 digs for the Spartans.
Central will play Liberty (29-8-1) for third at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“The competition was great,” Le said. “It was really tough competition. In the future, I think we have enough talent to compete with them, but to sustain it for 25 points is difficult for us. We haven’t played teams that we had to sustain that tough competition for 25 points and it showed today.”