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Bell City sweeps Leopold in quarters
BELL CITY -- It's no secret that whenever and wherever Leopold plays, it brings with it one of the most boisterous local cheering sections in high school volleyball, led by student spirit leaders.
Bell City libero Sherilyn Long said she is able to tune out the loud cheers.
But she didn't need to Saturday. That's because Long and the Cubs played one of their strongest matches this season and silenced the Leopold crowd early and often.
The underdog Cubs swept Leopold 25-19, 25-15 in the Class 1 quarterfinals to advance to the final four at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City on Friday and Saturday.
"It was amazing," Long said. "I don't even listen to the crowd when I'm playing, but just to see them all sitting was great."
The match looked similar to last year's sectional contest between the two rival small schools, when Leopold entered as the underdog and swept favored Bell City.
Long said it felt a lot like last year, except the roles were reversed this year.
Long led the Cubs (23-8-2) with 21 digs. She had 15 digs when Bell City swept Bismark 27-25, 25-15 in a sectional match early Saturday to set up its match with Leopold (25-4-1).
"Last year's loss was really bad," Long said. "That was probably the worst game I've ever played. I was just ready to come out and get them this year. We just realized that if we started from the beginning and got them down then they couldn't play the way they do. We did to them this time what they did to us when they played us [last year], getting us down at the beginning and frustrating us."
The win comes after Leopold blew out Bell City in the regular season. The Wildcats swept the Cubs 25-22, 25-13, 25-12 on Sept. 26.
"We had nothing to lose," Long said. "We had no pressure on us this year because no one expected us to win. So it really didn't matter if we came out here and lost. We just had to come out and bring our best game."
Bell City also received strong matches from senior setter Codie Lancaster and freshman middle blocker Jasmine Johnson, who continues to hit well from anywhere on the court. Lancaster finished with 26 assists, while Johnson had 12 kills against Leopold.
Lancaster did a nice job of scoring on quick taps and setting up shots for Johnson.
"Most of the time after Jasmine kills a few, people start to scoot back because they are ready for the hard hit and then you just put it over the net [softly] and they're not ready for it," Lancaster said.
Leopold coach Sandy Davis said her team tried to anticipate plays instead of reacting with a block.
"They are a good team," Davis said. "Their defense was good and [Johnson] is a good hitter and Codie is an outstanding setter. They played well. I wish the best for them when they go up there."
Davis said she does not feel like her team entered overconfident. She said her team did not play to its potential, but she does not want to take anything away from Bell City.
Leopold won its sectional against Holcomb earlier in the day.
Against Bell City, Danielle Beel had three kills and three blocks.
Lauren Seiler had 12 assists and Abby Landewee had five kills for the Wildcats.
Leopold gained a six-point lead at 11-5 in the first game. But Bell City went on a 6-0 run to tie it and never trailed again in the first game.
Bell City continued its momentum in the second game. Leopold took a 3-2 lead, but Bell City tied it 3-3, took the lead and never relinquished the lead.
Another key point in the day was when Bell City played Bismarck in the sectionals. The Cubs trailed the first game 24-22, but were able to score two points to tie it and emerged with the win, 27-25.
"We came in knowing that we were the underdogs," Lancaster said. "We knew that we were going to have to play as hard as we could if we wanted to win. We just wanted to get back at them for last year, I guess."
Johnson said her team served well, and that helped.
"Our serves got them this time," Johnson said. "And we came out with offense and we just shut them down."
Bell City coach Erin Hoffman admitted that she was unsure how her team would play heading into Saturday because she has a young team.
"I told the girls that there was a little glimpse out on the horizon that maybe it's possible," Hoffman said. "But I didn't walk in here saying, 'We're going to state' or anything like that. They definitely proved me wrong."