BENTON – Redemption came in the form of a sweep for the Benton volleyball team in their season finale.
The #9-ranked Lady Zephyrs celebrated Senior Night by taking down #3-ranked and previously unbeaten River Ridge in straight sets, 25-17, 25-23, 25-23, to earn a share of their second straight Six Rivers West title at BHS on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
“After our last couple of matches, I knew the team was healthy and we were getting better. These girls were hungry and they proved they wanted it tonight. I knew that if we played well, we could sweep this team and we did,” said Benton head coach Russell Hamm.
Since suffering a 3-2 loss to the Timberwolves in a hard-hitting match back on Sept. 12, the Zephyrs have reeled off seven consecutive conference victories– including six straight by sweep– to fight their way back into title contention
Tuesday’s win secured the Zephyrs (22-2 overall, 11-1 SRW) at least a share of the league’s championship crown. The Timberwolves (20-1, 11-1) locked up their piece of the title by rolling over Highland, 3-0, on Thursday evening.
“Winning the title was a goal of ours. We would have liked to have gone undefeated two years in a row, but that got shot down early in the season. We had to beat every team from there on out to get to this point and we did it. I’m proud of the girls for that. We were fired up tonight,” commented Hamm
Senior middle hitter Emma Lawrence and senior setter Kelsie Goffinet weren’t going to let their shot at the conference title slip through their hands on their home floor on Senior Night. Lawrence smashed a match-high 23 kills along with a team-high 27 digs and six blocks, while Goffinet distributed 34 assists to her hitters– mainly Lawrence– and added 20 digs and three blocks en route to the victory.
“I had to remind (Kelsie) to keep going to Emma. She was feeling good tonight and they weren’t stopping her. She was hitting the floor most of the time,” Hamm admitted.
Lawrence got the Zephyrs out to an early lead in set one with a pair of kills and a block, and she added six more kills during a 7-1 scoring run to put the team up 19-11. Benton went on to post a 25-17 win for a 1-0 lead.
Set two was a seesaw affair with the teams swapping the lead 10 times and fighting to ties on 18 other occasions before the outcome was settled. The T’Wolves held a 23-22 lead and the momentum late in the game until a dispute on whether a ball hit by River Ridge was in or out led to a replay of the point.
The ‘Wolves missed the next serve to tie the score at 23 all, and then they hit one out of bounds and another into the net to hand Benton a 2-0 advantage with a 25-23 decision.
The Zephyrs rode the momentum swing into the set three, tallying the first four points of the set and opening up a quick 11-4 lead to put the ‘Wolves back on their heels. Lawrence hammered four spike kills and added two blocks to give the hosts the largest lead for either team all night.
Benton got it to game-point on back-to-back kills by Lawrence, but the ‘Wolves refused to go away quietly scoring three straight points to cut their deficit to 24-23.
With the game and the match on the line, Lawrence buried her ninth kill of the set and her 23rd of the game to secure the sweep for the Zephyrs.
“Emma was on fire. She makes a big difference when she’s healthy. I’m not saying the other girls on the team are slouches by any means, but she’s the cream of the crop around here,” said Hamm about his senior leader.
Junior Sophie Dougherty chipped in with nine kills for the Zephyrs, while junior Maggie Dougherty registered 15 digs and a team-best two service aces. Junior Lydia Jones also had 17 digs for the match.
Junior Taylor Langmeier had 13 kills, three blocks and 13 digs for the T’Wolves, while sophomore Skylar White added 12 kills, two blocks and 21 digs. Junior Verity Johnson provided 19 assists, and sophomore Faith Schier tallied 20 digs for the guests.
“(River Ridge) always brings all they got. It’s hard to beat a good team like that in three sets. If you win the first two, that third set is often a barnburner. That’s what it came down to,” noted Hamm. “If we both keep winning, we’re going to see each one more time in the regional final at their place. It’s a tough place to play for us.”
The WIAA Division 4 volleyball tournament began on Tuesday, Oct. 17. The #3-seeded Zephyrs hosted #14-seeded Belmont in a regional quarterfinal match. The results of that match were unavailable at press time.
With a win on Tuesday, Benton would host the winner of the Potosi vs. Cassville match in a regional semifinal contest on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. The D4 regional final match is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 21, also at 7 p.m., while D4 sectional play will begin on Thursday, Oct. 26, with a semifinal match at Belmont High School, starting at 7 p.m.
River Ridge………… 17 23 23
Benton…………….... 25 25 25
Benton Leaders– Kills: Emma Lawrence 23, Maggie Dougherty 9. Blocks: Lawrence 6, Kelsie Goffinet 3. Assists: Goffinet 34. Aces: Maggie Dougherty 2. Digs: Lawrence 27, Goffinet 20, Lydia Jones 17, M. Dougherty 15.
At Benton on Tuesday, Oct. 10