Valmeyer holds off Christopher for sectional title

On a night when the Class 1A sectional title appeared to be slipping away, Valmeyer sophomore Sam Seidel and the rest of the Pirates refused to wilt on Thursday at Norris City High School.

Junior Blair Brady broke a 21-all tie with a kill and sophomore Sam Seidel broke the hearts of Christopher seconds later with a match-winning kill as Valmeyer captured its first Class 1A sectional title since 2012 with a 25-17, 17-25 25-23 win over the Lady Bearcats.

After watching Lady Bearcats senior Emily Burkitt seemingly take over the match in game two by recording eight of 22 kills, Valmeyer (25-11) retook control in game three when it jumped out to a 17-7 lead.

But with Burkitt and Lynnsay Wilson taking control of at the net, Christopher stormed back, tying the game at 21 when the Pirates failed to return a serve by Burkitt.

But with a large Christopher cheering section in a frenzy. Brady gave her team the lead — this time for good — with a kill which skidded off the hands of Wilson.

Seidel followed with a kill and a hitting error by the Lady Bearcats moved the Pirates to match point. Three points later, Seidel’s kill hit the floor as the Pirates stormed the court in celebration.

“I’m very proud of this team. We could have folded in the end but we made the plays when we needed too,” a drained coach Jenny Kohnz said. “I just wish they would make it a little less nerve-wracking on the coach.’’

Nervous early in the match, Valmeyer trailed 7-3 before a tip by April Thomason and a kill by Brady got it on track and when Seidel hit a kill seconds later, the Pirates were within 9-7.

Brady then stepped to the service line and eight points later, stepped away from it with Valmeyer holding a 15-9 lead.

“I thought we were nervous early in the match and then we started moving the ball and getting everyone involved. Our strength is our team balance. We’ve got several girls who can hit and we began to find the range a little bit better there,’’ Kohnz said. “It makes a difference when you have several players who can put the ball away instead of having just one or two.’’

Thomason ended the first game with a kill as the Pirates moved closer to the sectional title.

With Burkitt taking over early in the second game, Christopher jumped out an 11-7 lead which quickly turned into an 18-7 advantage on a seven-point service run by Maddie Gossett.

“We’ve done that a few times this year where we win the first game pretty easily and then the other team comes back and wins game two. I don’t know if we lose focus or the girls started to take it for granted or what,’’ Kohnz said. “But they (Christopher) started going to her (Burkitt) a little more. We had had no answer for her. She was unstoppable.’’

Burkitt was unstoppable not soon enough for Lady Bearcats coach Katie Pettit who gave her team a direct order between the first and second games.

“We weren’t moving at all in the first game and we didn’t do a very good job of getting her (Pettit) into the offense early,’’ Pettit said. “I just told the team that I wanted Emily (Pettit) to touch the ball on every play. She’s a great player. She’s by far the best player I’ve ever coached.’’

But not even Burkitt could contend with the Pirates depth. In taking a quick 5-2 lead, four Valmeyer players — Seidel, Jordyn Killy, Guin Kohnz and Thomason — scored.

Later, a six point service run by Savannah Williams increased the Valmeyer lead to 17-7 before Christopher rallied.

Dean Criddle: 618-239-2661, @CriddleDean