It wasn’t the start the Borgia volleyball Lady Knights wanted to see.

Borgia opened MSHSAA Class 3 state volleyball pool play Friday by splitting with Carl Junction, 18-25, 25-22.

“We talked about going out for our first match and stepping into that big open gym with all of those people to take 15 seconds to focus on what you see around you. But after that 15 seconds, zone in, get focused and play ball,” Borgia Head Coach Brad Bruns said. “I think that first game against Carl Junction, we took that 15 seconds and turned it into 15-20 points. I think eventually we settled down. Even though we lost that first game, we settled down in the second game, and played tremendously for the rest of the evening.”

The Lady Knights ended up getting a rematch with Carl Junction the next evening for the championship at Cape Girardeau’s Show-Me Center as both teams were able to move through pool play to reach the finals.

Borgia won all five of its remaining games while Carl Junction went 4-2. St. Pius X of Kansas City went 2-4 while Lutheran South was 1-5 during pool play.

“Honestly, if we were going to lose a game, I would rather it be to someone we were going to see in the finals,” Bruns said. “It put our girls in the right mindset for us to know that if we don’t step up our game and play to our potential, our dream of a state championship could be lost. We split with them in pool play and then winning our next two matches against the other two teams. Things happen for a reason. It’s nice to know the girls dug deep and did what they had to do to be successful.”

Carl Junction remembered the last meeting with Borgia, a win by the Lady Knights in the Silver Bracket championship of the Springfield Classic in September.

Carl Junction jumped out to a 14-6 lead as Borgia tried to find itself. Bruns had to expend another timeout at 17-9, and that brought the Lady Knights back into focus.

Borgia closed to 17-14 before Carl Junction was able to take the set, 25-18.

“I think they had a lot of energy,” Borgia sophomore rightside hitter Emma Kriete said. “They were really scrappy. They weren’t going to back down. They wanted it just as much as we did and that carried them through.”

Borgia senior middle hitter Sarah Geatley also noticed a change in Carl Junction.

“I think their defense wasn’t picking up all of our hits the first time,” Geatley said. “They just seemed to be off. Then we played them again and their defense was really good and their hitters were really smart. They were hitting all of our weaknesses.”

In the second game, Borgia found its mojo again and emerged with a 25-22 victory in another hard-fought set.

Borgia took the lead at 19-18 on a kill by senior Erin Hillerman and later led 23-20 on a kill by Kriete.

Carl Junction pulled back to 23-22, but senior setter Janie Arand dumped the ball into an empty spot for the 24th point and Kriete smacked a kill to end it.

“The first time we played them was a little shaky,” Hillerman said. “I think we were all nervous because it was our first match at state. We were all nervous and bouncing around, but we calmed down and we really came out on top the second time we played them.”

Freshman Audrey Arand led all players with 10 kills while hitting .409.

As a team, Borgia hit .078 for the match while Carl Junction attacked at a .138 clip.

Following Arand for Borgia were four players with three kills each. Seniors Janie Arand, Sarah Geatley and Hillerman each had three kills as did Kriete.

Junior Jordan Kriete added one kill.

Janie Arand led the team with 19 assists while Emma Kriete had one.

Jordan Kriete paced the defense with seven digs. Junior Allie Marquart checked in with six digs.

Logging three digs each were Audrey Arand, Janie Arand, junior Molly Arand and junior Alivia Brinker. Senior Clara Blatt, Hillerman and Emma Kriete each had one dig.

Audrey Arand registered a solo block. Emma Kriete and Hillerman had three block assists apiece.