Receiving the Trophy

Borgia seniors, from left, Janie Arand, Clara Blatt, Erin Hillerman and Sarah Geatley receive the Class 3 state championship trophy.

So much emotion.

So little time.

As those who made the trip to Cape Girardeau last weekend decompress and try to remember all of the small moments at the MSHSAA Volleyball Championships held at the Show-Me Center, there’s a lot of wonderful memories which work to the surface.

First, and foremost, are the championships. Borgia, Hermann and Lafayette, all close to Highway 100, claimed titles.

You had three story lines, in chronological order of how they won: the unexpected, the comebacks and the favorites.

• Hermann, the unexpected, claimed its 12th state title by beating St. Pius X of Festus in two games in the Class 2 title match. That broke a record the team shared with Incarnate Word Academy.

Hermann’s championship came as something of a surprise to many because the team had such a rough start to the season.

“They believed. I’m having a hard time myself believing it,” Hermann Head Coach Linda Lampkin said. “Maybe it’s because we have such a tough schedule and we have all of those losses. I think all of that prepares 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 did believe. Despite the rough start (Hermann was 3-7 at one point), the team started to work together and used the adversity to its advantage.

“We actually have the worst record of a state championship team in Hermann,” senior middle hitter Jamie Gleeson said. “I think that was one of our driving motivations,” Hermann senior middle hitter Kirsten Leimkuehler said. “We knew that people thought of us as underdogs. We just wanted to prove them wrong.”

The Lady Bearcats got hot a couple of weeks before the district tournament and then upset Lutheran St. Charles in the sectional final.

Even at the state tournament, Hermann had its adversity. St. Pius X of Festus swept the Lady Bearcats in pool play Friday, but Hermann rallied to sweep the Lady Lancers in the title match Saturday.

• Borgia won its 10th state title and first since 2004 by sweeping Carl Junction in two close sets. Borgia now ranks third for number of state titles.

“I’m really excited for the girls,” Borgia Head Coach Brad Bruns, who was an assistant on the 2004 state championship, said. “It was such an amazing weekend. I’m just blessed that I was able to be a part of this experience for these girls. To bring our school and these girls another state championship was a goal of mine from the first day I took this job. I’m just glad we all could work together and accomplish this.”

How long has Borgia gone without a state championship?

The state tournament has moved twice since the Lady Knights last won a state title and once since Borgia last played in a state championship match (2010).

• Lafayette won its third consecutive Class 4 state championship by sweeping Park Hill South.

While Lafayette is over the St. Louis County line, there are many close connections and friendships. Players from both schools are on club volleyball teams together.

Lafayette junior defensive specialist Claire Harman shadowed me as a photographer to the recent St. Louis Rams-Tennessee Titans game.

• One big happy family — By the end of the weekend, all three seemed to be closely related, cheering for each other.

“It was awesome, especially because they stayed and cheered for us,” Borgia senior setter Janie Arand said. “It was fun because we got to cheer for them, too. It was just so cool that we’re all here together and we all came out on top.”

Bruns said the Borgia cheering section was impressive. The school brought three pep buses to Cape Girardeau on Friday and two on Saturday.

“The fans were incredible,” Bruns said. “I think we had the best cheering section of any school and it was nice to have everyone rally behind us.”

Borgia junior outside hitter Jordan Kriete said the fans made an impact.

“We have our cheers and we have our student section,” Kriete said. “We can thank our student section for helping us win state this year. They were awesome. I would say they definitely impacted how we did this year.”

You had an extremely active Borgia student base which adopted Lafayette on Friday. The Hermann players came back and cheered for Borgia Friday night. The Borgia players and parents insisted on being there for Hermann Saturday afternoon.

“The girls had fun,” Lampkin said. “They’ve wanted to start that BOR-GIA cheer for a long time I think.”

The Hermann girls did that Friday night during pool play.

Some active Borgia students, looking for something to do between the Class 3 pool play matches, noticed Lafayette didn’t have a student crowd. So those Borgia students went over and adopted Lafayette for the weekend. The move was surprising, but appreciated.

Several within the Lafayette community expressed how much they enjoyed the support. The Lafayette players cut their celebration short and made a point to come back on Saturday after they had already won to cheer for the Borgia team.

It’s been refreshing to see so many students get out and be active supporters of their school’s teams and athletes. I understand Washington had a good-sized group cheering at the state cross country meet in Jefferson City.

There were so many little things within each match which made a difference as well. Players understood their roles, something which makes a huge difference between good teams and great teams.

“I feel the bench is still a part of the team,” Borgia senior defensive specialist Clara Blatt said. “It is good to keep the bench motivated and to remind the girls to get loud. That helps the girls on the court stay pumped up and reminds them on the court to take charge. There’s the playing part, but there’s also the mental part of the game, too.”

All of the players winning titles know that they will be immortalized in their respective gyms. For the Borgia players, that’s having a board put up on the wall in the Ray DeGreeff Memorial Gymnasium.

“I went into the gym and looked where our board will be,” Blatt said. “I still have this medal on. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know when it will, but it’s an amazing feeling.”

Blatt said she’s not taking the state medal off, and that’s something echoed by a number of other players on the winning teams.

“It feels unreal,” Borgia junior libero Alivia Brinker said. “I feel like I’m in a dream right now. It’s amazing. We all deserve this so much because we’ve worked so hard.”

Borgia freshman outside hitter Audrey Arand was a key player for the Lady Knights this season and earned all-region and all-state status for her play.

“It feels incredible,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for any more from these awesome people. I could not ask for any better teammates.”

Another young player is sophomore rightside hitter Emma Kriete, who made the all-state second team.

“It feels amazing,” Kriete said. “It’s so good. It’s way better than anything ever.”

Borgia’s senior middle hitters Sarah Geatley and Erin Hillerman both were able to go out as champions.

“It feels great,” Geatley said. “I’ve wanted this for four years and I’m just so happy and so excited.”

Hillerman agreed.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Hillerman said. “I’ve worked so hard for four years to work for this. We finally accomplished this. I couldn’t ask for anything better for my teammates or coaches for dedicating all of their time and effort into all of the practices, games and tournaments. This is just absolutely a high for me.”

Janie Arand, an all-state first team selection, feels the Borgia volleyball tradition has been restarted.

“The tradition continues from here,” Arand said. “We hope our underclassmen can come back here next year and win another championship.”

If that’s the case, it would create another weekend full of emotion and memories.