Lafayette ready to defend Class 4 state volleyball championship
By: Warren Mayes
The Lafayette Lancers have been on a mission this season. Their task — get back to the Class 4 Final Four to defend their state championship.
So far, so good.
Lafayette won its district championship and then faced powerful St. Joseph’s Academy in the sectional. No problem. The Lancers clipped the Angels 25-20, 27-25. That brought up the Lindbergh Flyers in the quarterfinals and Lafayette grounded Lindbergh 25-12, 25-13 to earn the trip to the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
“It feels great to get back to the state tournament in Cape,” Lafayette coach Zach Young said. “The kids have worked very hard all year to get the chance to go back to state.”
They have played very well, too. The undefeated Lancers are 36-0 and are recognized in the country as one of the best team. Lafayette, which has not lost a set this season, is ranked No. 2 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com.
Lafayette will battle with Francis Howell, Ozark and Lee’s Summit West on Friday in round-robin play. The Lancers play Francis Howell at 4 p.m followed by a match with Lee’s Summit West at 6 p.m. and then Ozark at 8 p.m.
The teams with the best records in pool play then advance to Saturday’s championship match at 7:30 p.m. The third place match will take place at 1:30 p.m.
Lafayette has 10 girls back from last year’s team right. That experience is valuable but Young does not overestimate it.
“It helps to have experience, but every year and every team is different,” Young said, “even if most of the players are the same. It’s all about who is playing well at the right time. I like how focused our kids are right now and think we are playing good volleyball.
“The girls have not lost a set, which does not happen very often in volleyball. Our kids have been focused and played hard every time we’ve taken the floor. It was an awesome regular season.”
But the other three teams at state have earned their berth, too. Young has made sure his girls know that.
“Going into state, all of the teams there have been undefeated for the past two weeks and are playing well,” Young said. “It should be a great tournament.”
Young is making sure his girls are focused on task that faces them. They are not carrying any burden with being ranked No. 2 in the nation.
“It’s nice for the St. Louis area to get some recognition, because we have some great teams here this year and every year,” Young said. “However, our team is only focused on our next match. It’s something we may focus on later, but right now it’s not something that we talk about very much.”
Lafayette dispatched fellow Suburban West Conference foe Eureka to win the district championship. That win gave the Lancers six consecutive district titles.
“That is saying something because I think we’ve had some great teams in our district the past six years,” Young said.
Then came the sectional match with St. Joseph’s. The two teams met in the season opener. They are familiar with each other.
“The St. Joe sectional match was a great game,” Young said. “There was lots of energy in the crowd and on the court and I thought both teams played well. It’s one of those matches that you hated to see either team lose.
“It’s unfortunate that match took place before the state tournament. They have a great team and it’s a shame both teams can’t go represent the St. Louis area at state.”
There was no letdown with Lindbergh.
“Our girls were very focused for both matches at sectionals,” Young said. “I was very proud of how the girls mentally responded by getting ready to play a very good defensive team in Lindbergh after playing such a draining match against St. Joe. I think having eight seniors really played a big part in how mature our team handled the situation on Saturday.”
The Lancers are happy to be going back to state.
“After we scored the final point against Lindbergh, the girls ran onto the court with pure joy and celebrated,” Young said. “The girls have worked hard all year to get back to Cape and truly deserve it.”
Of course, there are no easy games in the Final Four.
“The other three teams are all undefeated over the past few weeks and are playing good volleyball,” Young said. “All four teams have great players and good coaches and I look for it to be and exciting tournament.
“Our girls take every match one at a time. We are confident in our abilities, but we definitely respect all other teams there and know it will be a battle.”