BEMENT — The goals are established early, long before high school becomes a reality.
“Little girls in Oakland and Kansas grow up wanting to be volleyball players,” said Drew Robertson, head coach of the cooperative volleyball team from those districts known as Tri-County.
Those girls continue to successfully meet that goal.
The Titans extended their winning streak to 23 matches Thursday while winning their third consecutive Little Okaw Valley Conference tournament. Tri-County overcame a supreme Arthur-Lovington challenge in the first set to win 25-21 and followed with the sweep, winning the second set 25-11.
There is no magical secret for the program’s good fortunes.
“At small schools, you have to identify your players, and they have to play a ton of volleyball,” Robertson said. “We have a lot of dedicated players.”
Amber Meyer handed out 25 assists, with the majority going to Lizzy Barnard (11 kills), Kyla Skinner (seven kills) and Heidi Dague (six kills).
Dague is a sophomore who plays beyond her years.
“She had 400 attempts with her club team (last winter),” Robertson said. “That’s like going from a freshman to a junior (in a year).”
Arthur-Lovington, which has no club players, battled in the opening set. There were 10 ties and six lead changes, and neither team led by more than two points until a block by Barnard lifted Tri-County into a 24-21 lead.
“I would say, yes, that was our best game,” said Lancers coach Val Cornwell, whose team is 19-4.
Tri-County responded and never trailed in the second set.
“In the second game, we cleaned up some errors and proved ourselves,” Meyer said.
She was once one of those youth players that Robertson mentioned.
“I’ve always wanted to be a setter since I came to a Kiddie Camp,” said Meyer, who credited club ball with the team’s growth and development.
“Club keeps us in season all the time,” she said.
Tri-County has three remaining regular season LOVC matches remaining to complete another trifecta.
“We haven’t lost a conference game in three years,” Robertson said.
Meyer wants to see that streak continue.
“It’s our last year, our last chance and we want to make the best of it,” she said.
Meyer and her siblings, Ami and Autumn, along with Skinner are the Titans’ senior starters.
Karly Goodman led Arthur-Lovington with four kills and a
block. Emily Seegmiller had three kills.
“They hit very well,” Cornwell said. “We don’t see a lot of that. We’ll keep working toward the end of the year.”
Third-place match. Bement found itself in similar situations in each of the first two sets, trailing 7-1. The Bulldogs rallied to win the first set — finishing it off on back-to-back kills by Anna Hendrix — but fell short in their subsequent comeback bids.
Martinsville salvaged a 23-25, 25-15, 25-17 victory.
“It was definitely an off night for us,” Bement coach Carissa Benner said. “We haven’t come across hard-hitting teams like that in the first half of our season.”
Taylor Wegrich had 17 digs, five kills and three aces for Bement (13-4). Abby Trott had 14 assists, and Hendrix totaled five kills.
Consolation championship. Stephanie Sanderson had a memorable birthday. Her consecutive aces accounted for the final two points in the first set, and one of her kills gave Heritage its first lead in the second set, 13-12.
The Hawks (16-13) topped Shiloh 25-10, 25-16.
Sanderson had eight kills, Taylor Wienke six and Cedar Richardson five for a Heritage team that’s 16-2 this season against Class 1A competition.
Richardson had 11 digs and Wienke 10 assists.
Shiloh’s Betsy Bogle had seven assists and four digs. Teammates Lauren Moses and Lexie Minott each had five kills.
LOVC finals at a glance
For the fifth consecutive year, Tri-County was in the championship match of the Little Okaw Valley Conference volleyball tournament. A look at the results:
2012 Defeated Arthur-Lovington
2011 Defeated Heritage
2010 Defeated Cerro Gordo
2009 Lost to Arthur
2008 Defeated Cerro Gordo