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O'Fallon Christian outlasts Valle in five sets for first state championship

O'Fallon Christian outlasts Valle in five sets for first state championship

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CAPE GIRARDEAU — There was no way O’Fallon Christian senior Belle Monaco was taking herself off the court.

Monaco rolled her left ankle in the fourth set of the Class 2 girls volleyball championship match against Valle Catholic at the Show Me Center on Saturday. An audible gasp could be heard from the Christian cheering section as the 5-foot-9 middle hitter crumpled to the floor.

“It didn’t matter how much I was hurting, I was staying in,” Monaco said.

The Eagles are glad she did.

A hobbled Monaco put down 29 kills to help lead Christian to its first state championship in a thrilling 25-22, 27-25, 22-25, 20-25, 19-17 victory over the Warriors.

Addie Lyon had 17 kills and 31 assists for Christian (8-7). Summer Hollmann put down 11 kills, Katie Malzahn had 19 assists and 22 digs and Josie Villard put up 25 digs.

Lyon knew Monaco was limited after the injury.

“I kept the ball away from her in times when we didn't quite need her, but crunch time I gave it to her and she delivered," Lyon said.

Monaco’s fourth kill of the fifth set evened it at 14-14.

A Hailey Weibrecht block gave Valle its second championship point at 17-16, but Malzahn answered by connecting with Lyon twice to give the Eagles an 18-17 lead.

“I had faith in my team and I knew that, with it being close, they were going to do anything they can to get it to me and I just had faith that we would put that ball down,” Malzahn said.

Lyon, who will continue her career at Mizzou, wanted the ball and let Malzahn know.

“I think she already knew, but I was also screaming, ‘Give it to me. Give it to me. I'm ready,’” Lyon said.

On the next point, Riley Siebert’s attack for Valle landed just beyond the line. The Warriors appealed for a touch by Christian, but the officials ruled it was a clean point for the Eagles.

The Eagles fended off three match points (14-13, 15-14, 17-16) in that fifth set.

“It was just controlling our side of the play, taking a deep breath when we got a little frustrated or flustered,” Christian coach Kayla Hellebusch said. “We're not a team that plays tense. So, reminding each other to calm down and take a breath and that we had it.”

Siebert finished with 27 kills for Valle (30-6-2). Ella Bertram had 20 kills and Sam Loida had 67 assists.

Kills by Monaco and Lyon ignited a 6-1 run that gave Christian a 11-5 lead in the first set.

Valle responded with a 4-0 run. Siebert had three kills as the Warriors cut the Eagles lead to 14-12.

Swings by Monaco and Lyon pushed the Christian lead back out to four. Lyon followed with a block and a Monaco tip was originally ruled out, but after an official’s conference it was ruled that it went off a Valle defender.

The point change allowed Christian to withstand a late Valle surge and a couple of Warriors hitting errors gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead.

“I think we've got the most heart of any team,” Lyon said. “What we've been through in the past, I mean even the last two years. We wanted this more than anyone I think ever.”

Back-to-back blocks by Lyon sparked a 9-1 run for Christian, which erased a slow start to the second set. Lyon and Monaco found the floor with tips to help give the Eagles a 12-6 lead.

Valle rallied late with a Siebert spike and a net violation call against Christian. Bertram followed with a block to even the set 23-23.

Christian had a pair of set points only to have Bertram erase them with a kill and a block.

The Eagles got a third chance to win the set and made good on it after a Malzahn serve found the floor.

“I think the third and fourth sets we just got down and made some mistakes, but we came back with this set (the fifth) ready to fight,” Malzahn said.

Valle pulled ahead in the fourth set with a late 7-1 run. Bertram had a pair of blocks and Weibrecht added another as the Warriors took a 21-18 lead.

Christian stayed within striking distance with a couple of Monaco attacks, but Makayla Joggerst’s kill won the set for Valle.

The Warriors broke open another tightly played set with a late 5-1 surge. Bertram had a block on the point that Monaco went down, and Sam Loida immediately followed with an ace to make it 20-16.

“I put too much weight on it, tweaked it, a lot of shooting pains,” Monaco said.

Hellebusch shared a laugh with Monaco when she checked on her.

“She said I tripped,” Hellebusch said. “I asked her if it was over her own feet and she said yes. So, we started laughing. I said, ‘Well that's not unusual for you. Throughout my career coaching Belle, it's always her clumsiness that gets in her way.”

Siebert continued the push with two kills to help Valle send the match to the fifth set.

The victory was a fitting end for Monaco and Lyon, both seniors and best friends. A year ago, Lyon didn’t know if she would play volleyball again after being diagnosed with a genetic heart condition that is now under control.

“This has been my dream since I've been in middle school,” Lyon said. “Last year was a small setback, but I was ready to come firing this year.”

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