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CAPE GIRARDEAU — St. Pius X senior Caly Otec got a special message from her big sister before she and her teammates took to the court for Class 2 girls volleyball state semifinal pool play Friday.

Otec’s older sister, Jena, now is a standout a defensive specialist for Purdue and was a member of the Lancers’ state championship team in 2016.

“She texted me a long paragraph just saying good luck and have confidence and to play the best I can and to keep my teammates up,” Caly said. “She always knows how to make me feel good.”

St. Pius X was feeling good heading into the final pool-play rotation against Hermann. The Lancers won their first two matches, meaning they had already clinched a spot in the championship match.

Hermann did the same thing, turning the final rotation into a state championship preview. The Bearcats won the first round 25-15, 25-15. The rematch, with a state trophy up for grabs, will be played at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. 

“We’re in no position to hold anything back,” St. Pius coach Shannon Leftridge said. “We’re just trying to keep our heads above water that whole match. But it’s a learning match for us and we have a lot of things we can adjust and get better.”

Hermann coach Phil Landolt said his team only knows one gear.

“I don’t know if they could play where we’re trying to hold ourselves back,” Landolt said. “There was a lot of talk at the beginning of the season about what our team would be like. We lost four seniors that started and we lost Missouri’s winningest coach in volleyball, so these girls have had a little chip on their shoulder because they’ve heard the talk about our team and we just wanted our play to do the talking.”

Grace Winkelmann had 10 kills for Hermann (34-5), No. 4 in the small-school rankings, against the Lancers. Hannah Grosse had 22 assists.

Kennedy Lane had six kills and Otec added five for St. Pius (24-7-2). Molly Bange had 15 assists.

The championship match offers a battle between two schools that have been the standard for Class 2 volleyball excellence this decade, or in Hermann’s case well beyond.

The Bearcats are the defending Class 2 champions and have won a state record 13 state titles. It is the fourth consecutive final four appearances and the 25th overall for the volleyball blueblood.

“If we play defense like we did today, serve tough and keep our elbows high and swing hard we should be fine,” Landolt said. “We know Pius is a good team. It will be a good match (Saturday).”

St. Pius won the previous two Class 2 state championships, including a sweep of Hermann in the 2016 title match. The Lancers have been to state in eight of the last nine seasons and it is their 10th trip overall.

“Everybody knows about the tradition of volleyball that comes out of Hermann and they repeat it every year it seems like,” Leftridge said. “It’s an honor to play such a well-coached club.”

Hermann swept Licking 25-17, 25-9 in the first round of pool play. Winkelmann put down 13 kills for the Bearcats, while Grosse had 21 assists and Chloe Witte and Chelsey Moeckli combined for 19 digs.

Hermann punched its ticket second straight championship match with a 25-9, 25-16 sweep over St. Paul Lutheran Concordia. Winkelmann once again had 13 kills and Grosse had 26 assists.

“We just need to serve tough,” Winkelmann said. “Be confident, get good defense and passes, serve receive, and we’ll be fine.”

St. Pius began pool play with a 25-15, 25-12 sweep of St. Paul. Otec put down 10 kills along with nine digs, Lane added seven spikes and Bange had 19 assists for the Lancers.

St. Pius made the championship with a 25-21, 25-17 sweep of Licking. Lane led the way with 14 kills, Otec put down nine spikes and Bange had 24 assists.

“I knew that the Licking game was going to be our biggest challenge,” Leftridge said. “I told the girls that this game decides whether we play for first or second or third. They really brought it that match.”

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