Kickapoo volleyball advances to first Final Four since 1995

By Chris Parker

The Kickapoo volleyball team is back in the final four for the first time since 1995 after a thrilling five-set victory (19-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-27, 15-11) over Columbia Rock Bridge on Saturday.

“I can not believe. It just doesn’t feel real. The adrenaline we had running and the momentum; It was so much fun to be out there on the court with my team,” Kickapoo junior Bella Faria said.

Kickapoo knew what was coming from Rock Bridge heading into the state Class 5 quarterfinal game. The Bruins defeated the Lady Chiefs 2-0 (25-20, 25-18) in the Bentonville tournament to start the year.

Saturday’s game started much like the season opener with Rock Bridge winning 25-19.

Kickapoo went to the gathering to regroup.

“You make a game plan and try to execute it. If that doesn’t work, you believe in yourself and do it on the next ball. We talk so much about the next ball mentality. We get a lot of production from many of our players, so you could be next. Every single kid has to want the ball to come to them,” said Kickapoo head coach Marcy Adams.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a game of volleyball. As much as we want to strategize, it’s about playing volleyball,” Faria said.

Kickapoo went to work in the second set, taking an early lead, then holding off a late Rock Bridge charge to win the set 25-19 and even the match at 1-1.

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The third set saw a similar theme, with Kickapoo leading early before fighting back for a 27-25 set win that moved Kickapoo one set away from a trip to the final four.

Rock Bridge was not going to go quietly.

The Bruins, who finished fourth at state last year, stayed ahead or tied with Kickapoo for the entire fourth set en route to a 27-25 set victory.

Rock Bridge’s defense was a standout in this fourth set and throughout the night with great hitting all over the court.

“Credit to Rock Bridge. There were a few balls we thought had dropped. The whole gym thought they had fallen, and someone here was picking up this ball. This can blow you out, or you can try to stay steady at this point. I think we did. Our girls wanted the next prom,” Adams said. “We talked about it. Rock Bridge wouldn’t give it to us. You have to win every one of those points.”

That 27-25 set loss to Kickapoo forced a deciding fifth set where the Lady Chiefs had to come back. Kickapoo tied the game at 25, two points out of the final four, but instead faced another grueling battle with the Bruins.

“We talked about not driving the highs too high or the lows too low and just going back to baseline every time. I can’t imagine what they felt out there (on the court), but I was trying to do that on the bench as well,” Adams said.

Kickapoo trailed early in the final set 6-3. The Lady Chiefs, riding the energy of the raucous crowd, tied the game at 7-7. Rock Bridge took an 8-7 lead before Kickapoo delivered the knockout blow with a 6-0 run to take a 13-9 lead.

The Lady Chiefs finished the game with a 15-11 finish to celebrate their 27th anniversary.

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“The chemistry on our team is second to none. I would never want to play with any other team but this one. I love these girls so much,” Faria said.

Faria was key in that final set, making four kills from six attempts, including the match-sealing kill.

“As soon as Reagan (Greenway) set me up, I thought I was just going to hit the ball. That’s all I wanted,” Faria said. “I want my team to look up to me and know that I can be a leader for them every step of the way.”

Faria led the team with 15 total kills in the match to go with three assists, two aces and 10 digs.

Jenna Perryman was second on the team with 14 kills, followed closely by Parker Papa with 12 kills. Grace Gardner contributed nine kills, three aces and 11 digs. Claire Doennig had eight kills. Hannah Gardner had 25 assists with six digs and five kills. Greenway led in assists with 29. Kya Johnson and Emma Eaton were defensive stars with 21 and 19 digs, respectively.

Don’t expect the formula to change for Kickapoo heading into next weekend’s Final Four.

“Whatever brought us here can continue. We have a lot of faith in the team and we have a lot of kids who just want the ball. They want to be the ones talking to their team. They want to be the ones to bring out that player who hasn’t had a great ball. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Adams said. “Everyone has a role. Everyone has to contribute and bring something to the table. That’s how strong we are. We are strong with all our pieces.”

“This team is something else. Our team chemistry couldn’t be better. Every practice we go into, we want the ball more and more and more and we want every set and every point,” Faria said.

Kickapoo (30-8) will face St. Dominic (24-10-3) at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3 at Cape Girardeau in the Class 5 state semifinals. The winner will play for the Class 5 state championship at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 4.

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