FRONTENAC -- Even though her club was the undefeated champion of the Suburban East Conference this season, and was rolling along with an eight-game winning streak, Ladue High girls volleyball coach Roberta McCaffrey knew her Rams were facing a difficult task once the MSHSAA playoffs began, Tuesday night at St. Joseph's Academy.
Many consider St. Joe the top contender to de-throne Lafayette High as state champion this year. So it will likely take some team's best game of the season to beat the mighty Angels.
Unfortunately, Ladue won't get that chance, as the Rams were eliminated from the district playoffs on Tuesday, in a 25-16, 25-6, straight-set loss to Nerinx Hall.
"It's definitely disappointing to not play better than we did," McCaffrey said. "But we knew this was a very tough district, and our schedule wasn't as difficult as some of the others. So we knew it was going to be tough."
Early on though, the sixth-seeded Rams showed they could compete with the No. 3 seed Markers, and won four straight points to pull to within 17-14 in the first game, which forced Nerinx to call timeout.
"The girls kind of found their groove then," McCaffrey said. "We had some good energy going. We were hitting it well. It was going good."
Then, Nerinx turned on the after-burners, and scored eight of the next 10 points, to finish game one with a 25-16 win.
In the second game, Nerinx was good again, but Ladue made it awfully easy for the Markers by committing a number of unforced errors, which put the Rams in a huge hole, with only one set left in their season.
"That second set was just very frustrating," McCaffrey said. "We had passing errors, and hitting errors, and serving errors. We gave them four free points in the first set with serve errors, so that was a problem all night. We just didn't play how I know we can, and that's disappointing."
McCaffrey did her best to maintain her emotions, but she was definitely getting teary as she huddled with and talked to her team for the last time following the loss.
"I just think about how hard these girls all worked," the coach said. "Especially my four seniors (Katherine DeBoer, Erika Ingles, Christina Shaw, and Mallory Taylor). They've been here four years, and I've just seen them grow so much. I'm sad that their last game, was a game like this."
Ladue finished its season with a 20-5 record, and with four juniors and four sophomores expected to return to the team next year, McCaffrey said the Rams have a very bright future.
"We've also got some girls coming up from the JV that should help us too," she said. "So we are looking forward to next year. This year was a lot of fun, but I think next year will be great too."
Nerinx (18-13) will face Ursuline Academy (23-8) in the Class 4, District 4 semifinals on Wednesday, while St. Joseph's (23-3) will face Kirkwood (19-13) that night as well.
The St. Joe-Kirkwood game is set to start at 4:30 p.m., with the Nerinx-Ursuline matchup slated for a 6 p.m. first serve.
The two semifinal winners will then meet at 7:30 p.m. to decide the district champion.
All of those Wednesday night contests will be played at St. Joe.
Score by Set ..... 1 ..... 2 -- Final
Ladue .............. 16 .... 6 -- 0
Nerinx Hall ...... 25 ... 25 -- 2