Expect the unexpected.
Maybe that should be the Hermann volleyball theme this season after Hermann stunned St. Pius X of Festus Saturday afternoon to win the school’s 12th Class 2 state championship, 25-22, 25-18.
“They believed,” Hermann Head Coach Linda Lampkin said. “I’m having a hard time myself believing it.”
Hermann finished the season with a 26-14 season, and was 3-7 after the first 10 matches.
“Maybe it’s because we have such a tough schedule and we have all of those losses,” Lampkin said. “I think all of that prepared us for this. As we got closer to the end of the season, the girls started playing with more confidence. I really think they believed they could get it done the whole time.”
Hermann senior middle hitter Jamie Gleeson pointed out the team learned some tough lessons early in the campaign.
“It couldn’t have ended any better,” Gleeson said. “We actually have the worst record of a state championship team in Hermann.”
Senior middle hitter Kirsten Leimkehler said the fact people thought Hermann couldn’t do it proved to be strong motivation.
“I think that was one of our driving motivations,” Leimkuehler said. “We knew that people thought of us as underdogs. We just wanted to prove them wrong.”
Hermann’s 12 state titles is a new MSHSAA state record, breaking a tie the school previously shared with Incarnate Word Academy.
“Having the tradition and reputation Hermann has is a lot to uphold, so we don’t disappoint,” Gleeson said.
Hermann had lost to St. Pius (30-8-2) in the final round of pool play the day before. However, both games were very close and that left Lampkin and her staff encouraged that the team had a good chance during play Saturday.
“One thing that helped us yesterday was that the scores were close,” Lampkin said. “If you look at the stats, I think they had two more kills than us and everything else was pretty even. The fact that we were able to hang close with them yesterday gave our kids enough confidence that they could go out and get it done.”
The pool play match with St. Pius the previous day finished in a 26-24, 25-23 victory for the Festus school. Both games were decided at the very end.
Lampkin felt her team played with more confidence in the title match Saturday.
“I felt that St. Pius played a little nervous and a little scared today,” Lampkin said. “They swung at the ball a lot more yesterday than they did today. I think some of that has to do with our defense. We were picking the ball up and keeping the ball in play sometimes when it looked like it was going to go down. So, I thought they might have played a little more nervous than we did.”
In the title match, St. Pius pulled away midway through the game, forcing Lampkin to call a timeout at 14-9.
Hermann rallied and tied it at 18-18.
“This match we were more mentally prepared,” Gleeson said. “We knew what we had to do in this match compared to yesterday’s match. We were drained when we played yesterday and we knew we already had made it to the championship round. A loss wouldn’t hurt us. We came out tonight knowing what we had to get done and we finished it.”
From there, the Lady Bearcats slowly started to take over. Hermann broke a 20-20 tie and ran to the win, 25-22.
In the second game, St. Pius again took the early lead, but Hermann caught up at 6-6.
The second game was tied again at 10-10 when Hermann started to edge ahead.
The Lady Bearcats never trailed again. Hermann slowly added to its lead, winning by a 25-18 final score.
“It’s unbelievably amazing,” Leimkuehler said. “We worked really hard for this, all of us girls, and we deserve it.”
Overall, defense controlled the game for both teams. Hermann hit .132 for the match while St. Pius ended with a .026 attack percentage.
Senior Emilie Diebal led the team with eight kills while hitting .353 for the match.
Senior Jamie Gleeson was next with seven kills.
Senior Hayley Stiers posted six kills.
Senior Kirsten Leimkuehler ended the day with two kills.
Senior Kali Stiers added one kill.
Defensively, Hermann recorded 50 digs in the two sets.
Junior Tesla Ruediger led the team with 10 digs while senior Sydnee Pate and Leimkuehler each had nine digs.
Gleeson and Kali Stiers posted eight digs each. Hayley Stiers had three digs while sophomore Cameron Hackmann recorded two and Diebal closed with one dig.
Kali Stiers had 17 assists to lead the team. Hackmann and Ruediger contributed two assists apiece.
Gleeson, Ruediger and Kali Stiers each had one ace.
Hayley Stiers recorded a solo block. Hackmann and Leimkuehler each posted one block assist.
Jena Otec led St. Pius with six kills and added five digs, two aces and one solo block.
Madeline Kassen had three kills, six assists, six digs and one ace.