The Cubs downed Bernie in three games
BERNIE, Mo. -- After losing the opening game of its district final to host Bernie, the discussion in the Bell City volleyball huddle wasn't all that complex.
Coach Erin Hoffman first reminded the team what was at stake.
"I told them this is it," Hoffman said. "If you lose, you're done. The season's over."
Then the seniors in the group outlined the plan for a comeback victory.
"My seniors stepped up a little, said a few words and made sense," Hoffman said. "We explained what we needed to do to be successful and it came from them instead of from me.
"We needed to make our serves. We needed to get the ball to Jasmine more."
Jasmine, for those not familiar, is Jasmine Johnson, the Cubs' sophomore hitter who is as likely to kill the ball from the back row as from the front or anywhere along the net.
With her teammates determined to get the ball to her, Johnson scored Bell City's first four points in the second game and carried Bell City to a seventh consecutive district title 23-25, 25-12, 25-11.
Johnson said there never was any doubt among Bell City players that they would secure the victory.
"We said that it's OK guys, calm down, we're still in this," Johnson said. "We're going to win."
A third set probably shouldn't have been necessary. Bell City led 22-17 in game one before Bernie won seven points in a row to earn two game points.
Bernie setter Katie Baker spurred the rally with consecutive aces, but one was a miss-hit that barely sneaked over the net and the other caught the net on its way over.
The Cubs looked rattled by their misfortune and soon the first game belonged to Bernie.
"We hadn't really had to really deal with pressure yet, and I wasn't sure how we were going to deal with it," Hoffman said. "That first game showed that they didn't know either, but once they got out there and got comfortable, the second and third game showed the better result."
Bernie led 8-7 early in the second game, but Bell City scored five consecutive points to grab the lead, which grew into a 25-12 win. The Cubs jumped out to a 8-2 lead in game three and never trailed by fewer than six points on their way to a 25-11 victory.
With his team unable to duplicate its first-game comeback, Bernie coach Jeff Rodgers was left trying to explain the effect Johnson has on a match.
"In volleyball, and I think especially with girls, momentum's everything, and we had it," Rodgers said. "But when you've got a special player like Jasmine Johnson, she can turn that around real quick. That second game she came out and they went to her about 90 percent of the time, and she was just unstoppable."
Johnson finished with 28 kills, five stuff blocks and 14 digs. The next leading hitters for Bell City had three kills. Trisha Slagley had 33 assists for the Cubs.
Hoffman said that if her team hopes to continue to advance, more offense will be needed from other people.
"We need to find some more offense somewhere else just in case we do run into a team that can stop her or give her some trouble," Hoffman said.
Bell City will host the sectional and quarterfinal rounds of the state playoffs Saturday. The Cubs will face the winner of District 1 at 4:30 p.m. If they win, they play their quarterfinal match immediately after.