All season long, the two best teams in Missouri girls high school volleyball have been on a collision course to meet one another in what would be a huge sectional round matchup.
The only thing holding up a possible No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown would be if either or both of the teams lost in their respective district tournaments.
On Tuesday, top-ranked and unbeaten Lafayette did its part by breezing through two opponents to claim the Class 4 District 3 title.
That left it up to No. 2 St. Joseph's Academy, to make sure local volleyball fans would get the matchup they've been waiting for.
And to the surprise of no one, the Angels made sure Saturday's sectional showdown with Lafayette would happen, by winning their own district championship plaque, thanks to a 25-22, 25-16, straight-set victory over visiting Ursuline Academy.
"It was kind of back and forth in that first game, I thought Ursuline played well," St. Joe head coach Karen Davis said. "And then in that second game, we kind of got into a groove and did a lot of things right."
One of those things St. Joe did right was get the ball to standout middle hitter Natalie Gower.
A 6'3 senior, who ranks as one of the top hitters in the area this season, Gower got lots of opportunities throughout the match, and made sure she did something with them, finishing with an unofficial game-high 15 kills to go along with four defensive blocks.
Midway through the first game, as St. Joe tried to find its rhythm, Gower only had one kill and just three hit opportunities.
But after a quick four-point run by Ursuline that pulled the Bears to within three points at 15-13, St. Joe setter Alyssa Jensen started finding Gower, who flat-out took over the match, with six kills (seven total) to close the first game, and eight more kills in the district title-clinching second game.
"It was fun to get a lot of chances," Gower said. "I like it when the ball is sort of in my hands, and my teammates are trusting me to, you know, make a play."
Ursuline finished its season with a 24-8 record, while St. Joe improved to 30-4 on the year, with a shot at win No. 31 on Saturday against Lafayette -- the defending state champions, who are 34-0 this year.
"We're not even thinking about them yet," Davis said. "We've just been focusing on playing one game at a time, and that's what we'll continue to do. We'll start looking at them tomorrow in practice, and we'll work on some things to make sure we're ready to play on Saturday."
The MSHSAA sectionals on Saturday will be played at Lafayette High in Wildwood.
District 1 and 2 winners, Farmington (MO) and Lindbergh, will play in one sectional at 3 p.m., and then will be followed by the St. Joe-Lafayette matchup at 4:30 p.m.
The winners of those two contests will then meet in a Class 4 state quarterfinal at 6 p.m., with the winner of that match advancing to the state volleyball Final Four at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau, on November 2 and 3.
Score by Set ..... 1 ..... 2 -- Final
Ursuline .......... 22 .... 16 -- 0
St. Joseph's ..... 25 ... 25 -- 2