Cubs bid for return trip to state tournament

Monday, October 24, 2005

Bell City has the No. 1 seed and is the host team in the Class 1 District 2 tournament.

Bell City and Leopold have claimed two of the last three Class 1 state volleyball championships.

The Cubs and Wildcats again are among the area's top volleyball squads, and both will enter district play this week as top seeds in their quests to return to the state's final four. That puts them on a collision course for Saturday's four-team sectional at Advance.

At the Class 1 District 2 tournament hosted by Bell City, the Cubs are seeking their third straight district title. Bell City, the 2003 state champion, has been nearly unbeatable throughout Southeast Missouri this season, piling up a 26-4-1 record. One of Bell City's losses came against Class 4 Farmington in the B.A. Sports Volleyball Classic semifinals.

Bell City coach Erin Hoffman said her squad has hit a plateau after a great start.

"We're going to have to step it up if we're going to fill the shoes we've created," she said.

While the Cubs feature several seniors on their roster, Bell City starts just one senior in a lineup with several sophomores. Codie Lancaster, a freshman, has also emerged among Bell City's young group that includes sophomores Rachel Spears and Jenny Lathum.

Not only are the Cubs young, they are a relatively short group.

"We're really small, so I think they've really matured as to using what they've got to be aggressive," Hoffman said.

Bell City will have an opening bye in district play before playing in a semifinal game at 7 p.m. tonight. Advance is the No. 2 seed in the district.

"We're trying to keep the tradition going," Hoffman said.

Wildcats have a top seed

Leopold, the 2002 state champion, is the top seed in the Class 1 District 3 tournament being hosted by Meadow Heights. The Wildcats are 20-5 this season, with one of their five losses coming to Bell City.

"They're playing good, but they just take one game at a time and keep improving every match," Leopold assistant coach Sandy Davis said. "They're confident, but not overly confident."

The Wildcats are searching for their fourth consecutive district championship. Last season, Leopold was eliminated by Bell City in the sectional round.

Leopold has been able to continue its success this season with four sophomores and a freshman among its top players.

"They've matured a great deal over the season," Davis said. "They really play well together."

Bulldogs' streak at risk

Another area squad looking to continue its recent trend of district success will be Notre Dame. The Bulldogs have won five straight district titles and have gone to the state final four twice in that span. Notre Dame has the third seed in the Class 3 District 1 tournament hosted by Dexter.

This season has been a struggle at times for the Bulldogs, who lost 10 seniors off last year's roster. Notre Dame sports a 13-12-3 record, a down year compared to its recent run of success.

"When we've played good teams this year, we've played just well enough to lose," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said.

Still, the Bulldogs have played No. 2 seed Dexter close this season, including a recent three-set loss to the Bearcats. Notre Dame also defeated Leopold in two sets on Thursday to close out its regular season.

"[The Leopold game] gave us some good momentum going into districts," Stroup said. "I think the district is anybody's to win. We've been the strong favorite the last couple years, but now the top four teams have a good chance. It depends on who shows up."

Kennett is the No. 1 seed at Dexter. Perryville is seeded fourth.

Rams also a top seed

Scott City is the area's other defending district champion, after winning Class 2 District 2 last year. The Rams carry the top seed into the tournament hosted by Bloomfield.

St. Vincent is seeded third and Woodland fourth in the Class 2 District 3 tournament hosted by West County. Bismarck, the defending district champion, is seeded first.

In Class 4, Jackson is seeded third and Central fifth in the District 1 tournament at Hillsboro. Farmington is the top seed.

All the district tournaments with local teams conclude Tuesday.

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