Miller returns to playoff promised land after three set sweep in quarterfinals

Skylan Akins

Miller senior Kaylee Helton brings the boom late in Miller’s quarterfinal win over Midway. Helton has been a driving force behind the Lady Cardinals high powered attack at the net all season long. (Photo by Skylan Akins)

Girls volleyball to make another Final Four appearance in Cape Girardeau, Friday, against powerhouse Santa Fe
A year ago, Miller volleyball went where no Lady Cardinals team had ever been, the Final Four in Cape Girardeau. They had a remarkable run only losing twice in the regular season to Class 4 Camdenton and Class 5 Carthage. They finished last year 32-3, SWC Champions, district champions, and a third place finish at Show-Me Arena. They also did so in a dominating fashion—only losing 17 sets all season.
This season has been labeled the “Revenge Tour” as that third-place finish wasn’t enough for the Lady Cardinals. And they bring everyone back for another go round. This season has been arguably even more dominant. They have dropped only three games, so far; once to Class 4 district runner up Carl Junction, once to Class 3 Final Four team Strafford in five sets, and once to Class 5 Republic. They finished the regular season 28-3, undefeated SWC champs, and Sparta Tournament champs, and cut their sets lost count almost in half to just nine.
The success in the regular season was more than impressive, it was expected. The Lady Cardinals are after much more this season and the quest to complete their “Revenge Tour” began at districts on Tuesday.
Miller made relatively quick work of their district opponents, Lockwood and Greenfield, to claim Miller’s third straight, Class 1 District 10 title before heading to sectionals.

Sectionals versus College Heights
Miller advanced to take on College Heights as the Lady Cougars were the top seed in their own district and defeated Jasper for the District 9 crown. The odd number district hosted sectionals, so Miller had a road trip down to Ozark Christian College in Joplin for the sectional matchup. Despite a solid effort from College Heights, it wasn’t near enough to topple the Lady Cardinals. The night belonged to Miller as they dominated the Lady Cougars for their 14th straight sweep and a 3-0 sectional win.

Quarterfinals versus Midway
Miller awaited the conclusion of the Midway-Osceola contest to figure out their quarterfinal matchup. It was ultimately the Lady Vikings of Midway that emerged victorious. Miller hosted Midway, Saturday, with a trip to Cape Girardeau on the line. It was a raucous environment in Miller as the Lady Cardinals jumped out to a 7-2 lead. Helton and junior Emberlynn Kingsley were dominant again at the net and extended the lead to 20-11. Senior Alli Mitchell was very smart from the setter position and led the Lady Cardinals to a 25-11 first set win. Midway took the first point for their first lead of the day. However, a Haylie Schnake spike ended the short-lived lead for the Lady Vikings. Miller took six of the next seven points to take a 7-2 lead, and went on another big run with Schnake at the service line as they took the next five points to lead 13-3. The Lady Cardinals wouldn’t slow down as they took the second set 25-12. Miller jumped ahead early once again in the third set and wouldn’t look back as the Lady Cardinals took this one again 25-12 for the quarterfinal sweep and berth into the Final Four.
“It is exciting,” Miller senior Claudia Hadlock said. “I told you after the district win, we would make it back. We came to play and was sitting in the locker room super intense and was able to get focused and was able to get into their head early,” Hadlock said.
“This is a super exciting thing," said Lady Cardinal Kaylee Helton. "Especially with this being our last year. We got a taste last year and this year we are chasing it! I am proud of the accomplishment, but we’re not done.”

Final Four
Santa Fe is next on the schedule for the Lady Cardinals, as Miller will look to knock off a legendary program with 22 Final Four appearances and seven state championships. Since 2010, the Lady Chiefs have won 11 of 12 district championships and have made the Final Four seven times. They come into this matchup 25-0 and have only dropped three sets all year.
“I think back to last year, Lawson came in undefeated into the Final Four. They lost their semifinal game and they lost to us in the third-place game," head coach Landers said. "So, I would rather come into the Final Four already losing a game rather than it happen while we are there. We know what adversity is and have dealt with some. They’re going to be a good team, but they haven’t dealt with adversity yet and we have.”

The Lady Cardinals now sit at 32-3-1 for the season. Miller will look to complete their Revenge Tour at 6 p.m. Friday, at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.


Lawrence County Record

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