Bell City is not the biggest team around, but with the help of a tenacious team defense, the Cubs are making a trip to the state volleyball sectionals.
Bell City will be the only newcomer among the four Class 1 teams making the trip to Advance today. The Cubs (21-9), led by senior setter Whitney Abner and junior outside hitter Katie Niemczyk, will face Gideon (31-2-2) at 4:30 p.m.
"We don't know a lot about the team we're going to be playing, but I think that's better for us," Bell City coach Erin Hoffman said.
In the other half of the bracket, defending state champion Leopold (22-5) will start its title defense with a rematch of last year's quarterfinal round. The Wildcats will face Bismarck at 3 p.m. Bismarck (31-1-1) is the MAAA small-school champion.
Although none of Bell City's players have state playoff experience, the team is confident it can emerge from the Advance sectional-quarterfinal rounds.
"We can do it," Bell City sophomore Andreia Wondel said. "We can go all the way as long as we play as a team."
Notre Dame travels north
One of the hottest teams in Southeast Missouri will travel north in search of its first Class 3 final four berth. Notre Dame (28-3-1) qualified for the sectional round a second straight year by defeating Dexter in the district finals in two games.
"It's good to end the district with a win like that," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "It should be a little more of a confidence booster for us."
Even though Notre Dame has not lost a regular-season match, the Bulldogs will have a tough road if they want to make it to Warrensburg for the finals.
Notre Dame's sectional opponent, St. Pius, will have the luxury of playing in an almost-home environment with the sectional at Festus. Windsor and St. Francis Borgia will play in the other sectional at Festus.
"I really think we have a good chance," Stroup said. "I think we have a pretty even group of four."
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