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Valiant St. Joe Volleyball Falls In Sectional Showdown With No. 1 Lafayette

Angels were 30-5 this season, with only local losses coming in two matchups against Lafayette.

WILDWOOD -- For just a moment, the St. Joseph's Academy girls volleyball team thought it had done something no other team this season had done to No. 1-ranked Lafayette.

The Angels were ahead 25-24 in set 2 of their MSHSAA Class 4 sectional matchup against the defending state champion Lancers, and for just a second, thought they had won the next point to claim a 26-24 set victory.

Lafayette's Melanie Crow had fired a rocket kill attempt that sailed wide of the court, and appeared to give St. Joe the final point it needed to had the Lancers their first set defeat of the season.

Crow and the her Lafayette teammates insisted that one of the St. Joe defenders had touched the ball and that the point should be theirs, which would tie the score at 25.

Everyone in the building seemed sure they knew whether the ball had been touched or not, but hardly anyone could agree on which way the call should go, including the game officials, who conferred for several minutes, before finally deciding St. Joe had touched the ball, and awarding the point to Lafayette.

Two points later, the match was over, as the Lancer senior Stephanie Campbell blasted home two kills that gave Lafayette a straight-set victory over the Angels, 25-20 and 27-25.

“I saw no touch, but of course I’m going to say no touch,” St. Joe head coach Karen Davis said of the controversial play that helped the Angels' season. “It’s just part of the game.”

And unfortunate part as far as St. Joe was concerned, as the Angels gave Lafayette, which is now 35-0 this year and ranked No. 6 in the country by MaxPreps.com, perhaps its most difficult match of the season.

Lafayette, as it has in all 35 of its matches this season, jumped out to a big lead midway through the first set, leading 12-6 and 13-7, before St. Joe rallied with five straight points to pull within 13-12.

But the Lancers went on another run just a bit later, to push back ahead 19-13, before eventually taking the first set 25-20.

St. Joe senior Natalie Gower was just dynamite in that first set, with six kills and several other wicked shots that against any other team would have almost certainly brought her team points.

"Natalie played well," Davis said. "I thought they all played well."

St. Joe's undoing though in that first set was a truly uncharacteristic six service errors, which gave Lafayette just enough easy points to win the set without having to do anything but watch.

"It happens," Davis said. "It was just a little bit of adrenaline going. There's not really anything you can do to fix it. It just happens sometimes."

St. Joe had just one service error in the second set, but still trailed 16-9 midway through.

But that's when Gower really went to work, smacking three winners in a six-point span to pull her team to within 17-14.

Later in the set, it was her game-high 13th kill that put the Angels within a point of taking the first set against Lafayette by anyone this year.

The unfortunate controversy happened on the next point, and Lafayette ended St. Joe's season two points after that, in a match that more than lived up to its "true" state championship game billing.

"I thought we played well," Davis said. "If a couple of little turnaround things go in our favor, we have that ballgame. They're a good team. Good luck to them."

Lafayette also went on to defeat Lindbergh High in a state quarterfinal match late on Saturday, to advance to the Class 4 state championship tournament, which will be played at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau next weekend.

The Lancers are heavy favorites to win their second straight state title, and will face Francis Howell, Friday night in the state semifinals.

Score by Quarters..... 1 ..... 2 -- Final

St. Joseph's ............. 20 .. 25 -- 0

Lafayette ................. 25 .. 27 -- 2

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