GREENVILLE, Mo. -- With elimination and the end of her high school volleyball career staring her in the face, St. Vincent senior hitter Kelsey Cissell hammered a kill that nicked the opposite sideline to keep her team alive.
After that, Sarah DeWilde had kills on the next two points to win the second game and propel the Indians to a 20-25, 27-25, 25-15 victory Thursday against Arcadia Valley in the championship match of the Class 2 District 3 tournament.
"That was unbelievable," senior setter Lacey Siegmund said of Cissell's kill. "That just brought our will to win up even more. We knew we had the momentum."
Second-seeded Arcadia Valley (23-6-2) knew it, too.
St. Vincent, with elimination staved off, was a different team in the final game, rolling to leads of 9-2, 15-3 and 18-5 before finishing off the match.
The win sends the Indians (27-5-2), the top seed in the district, to the Class 2 sectional Saturday at Bloomfield. They will meet Scott City (18-14-2) at 3 p.m., while Hayti (17-6-2) and last year's quarterfinalist, Crystal City (28-3-2), will meet in the following match. The quarterfinal is set for 6 p.m.
The Indians, who won their third consecutive district title, are fortunate to have the chance to avenge last year's sectional loss to the Hornets and a conference loss earlier this month.
They were beaten in the opening game as their 8-5 lead evaporated and became a 14-9 deficit. St. Vincent tied Arcadia Valley at 15-15 but yielded five of the next six points as Arcadia Valley's senior hitters, Kassie Walker and Loren Goggin, controlled play at the net.
But St. Vincent had three hitting errors, and Arcadia Valley's Courtney Rice blocked a Cissell kill attempt for a point to tie the game at 24-24. When St. Vincent had an error receiving serve as two players tried to occupy the same space, its season was in jeopardy.
"I was getting nervous," first-year coach Mindy House said. "To be honest, I was shocked. I kept thinking, 'This can't end this way.'"
Cissell was thinking, "I was ready. I wanted it to come to me."
After a shaky serve reception, the set went to Cissell, who painted the opposite sideline with a kill that nearly was too wide.
"I just go out and play as hard as I can play," she said. "I think we all do. You have to play to win; you can't play not to lose."
Of Cissell, House said, "We can always rely on her. She's an all-around great player, and she always takes care of business."
After that kill, DeWilde, a junior, took care of the last two points, blasting through a block attempt by Goggin and then tipping the ball into an open spot.
"I was trying to put myself in the seniors' shoes and thinking about what it would feel like if we lost," DeWilde said. "I didn't want that to happen."
It didn't. The Indians controlled the final game from the opening points.
"It's so much easier to play when you're up," DeWilde said. "When we get up and get excited, it just gels together. Everybody clicks."
DeWilde led the Indians with nine kills and six blocks, while Brooke Brown and Cissell each had seven kills each. Cissell also had 17 assists and eight digs and Siegmund had 13 assists. Sara Moll had 17 digs, and Courtney Besand had 12 digs and three kills in a short span to help the Indians pull away in the final game.
While Arcadia Valley rallied in the second game to finish off a 25-14, 29-27 win against West County, the Indians turned back fourth-seeded Woodland 25-14, 28-26.
Brooke Brown had 11 kills, while DeWilde had 10 kills and eight blocks. Cissell had eight kills and 16 assists.
Siegmund had 20 assists and 17 digs.
After DeWilde tied the second game with a kill from the middle, senior Kailyn Petzoldt had the final two kills, placing the last ball along the front line so that Lauren Johnson's only play for Woodland left her sliding under the net.
Johnson had six kills for Woodland (17-10-2) while Jessica Santi had eight and Chelsea Morris had seven. Brandi Killian had 11 assists.