Lady Chiefs charge into state finals
CAPE GIRARDEAU - The fifth time was the charm for Santa Fe head volleyball coach Kinsey Harms.
During her first four years, Harms had guided her team to the MSHSAA Class 1 Championships at Cape Girardeau, only to settle for a consolation prize. Friday, the top-ranked Lady Chiefs went 5-1 in pool play to reach the finals as the No. 1 seed.
"I don't want the girls to feel satisfied that they're in the championship game," Harms said. "It's just not good enough. We've got to get gold."
That hasn't happened since 1987, the end of a six-year run of titles for Santa Fe, which last played for the crown in 2006. Getting there wasn't easy.
The Lady Chiefs began the day with a tough tilt against New Haven, not gaining their first lead until an ace by senior Abby Zitelman at 15-15.
"We should a lot of nerves in the first 10 points of the game," Harms noted. "They were able to keep it together and did a good job of controlling the game later in the first set."
Behind senior Kyle Limback's 14 kills and 11 digs, Santa Fe nipped the Lady Shamrocks, 25-23 - her block providing game point - and never trailed in the second set, winning 25-18.
"There was never a moment where I felt we lost control of the [second] game," Harms said. "They didn't look nervous. They looked like they were in the groove."
The Lady Chiefs secured a spot in the finals in the second pool match, a 25-11, 25-19 victory over Bernie - which had swept three-time defending champion Winona, 26-24, 25-22.
Santa Fe jumped on the Lady Mules 7-1 in the first set, taking command of the net.
"Our hitters took it to them," Harms asserted. "Our passers were giving them really good looks by putting it so accurately into our setter's spot."
After pulling out to a 17-10 advantage in the second frame, the Lady Chiefs got a little sloppy with their passing, allowing Bernie to trim the margin to four points.
"We kind of broke down a little bit," Harms admitted. "We had a rocky four or five points in a row."
Santa Fe still wound up with a .291 attack percentage, with Kylie Limback knocking down 16 shots and sophomore sister Sadie Limback adding 10.
The Lady Chiefs wound up the day by splitting with second-ranked Winona, losing five points on questionable lift and double-hit calls by the referee during a 25-23 setback in the opening stanza.
They opened with a 7-1 run, but yielded eight straight points, three on jump-serve aces by sophomore Lily Wright.
"We struggled with passing again," Harms said. "Thankfully, it didn't last for a real long time."
While Santa Fe couldn't salvage that game, they dominated the second one for a 25-8 romp.
"I think the girls were really angry about that first set," Harms observed. "They didn't want to show any mercy in that second set."
One aspect of the Lady Chiefs' performance that was consistent throughout the day was the floor coverage. They had 103 digs, led by 21 from Kylie Limback. Senior Kenzie Phillips came up with 19 saves and 18 were pulled up by both Sadie Limback and senior Lauren Wiggins - who provided 49 assists.
"We've got a really strong back-row group," Harms said. "These girls do an exceptional job of controlling out passing for us."
Saturday's championship contest will pit Santa Fe (35-1-1) against No. 4 New Haven (33-6). This is a rematch of the 2005 finals, won by the Lady Shamrocks, 25-12, 25-22, coached then as now by Jamie Hoener.
"We know we can beat New Haven," Harms declared. "We've just got to do it again."
Contact Chris Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org