Malden varsity, Campbell JV win Bootheel Conference volleyball tournaments
PORTAGEVILLE, Mo. - The Malden Green Wave entered Thursday’s Bootheel Conference tournament championship with plans of providing the Campbell Camels defense with a heavy dose of middle hitter Gracie Thomas.
“Our game plan coming in was to feed it to Gracie Thomas every time because she scores when she hits,” Malden volleyball coach Brittany Crane said.
It took a little while for the second-seeded Green Wave to get things going as the top-seeded Camels recorded four of its first six points on Malden attack errors to jump out to an early 6-1 lead. Malden found a way to take the first set anyways as it later scored seven straight points to turn a 14-10 deficit into a 17–14 advantage on its way to a 25-21 first-set victory.
Thomas later caught fire at the net as she recorded nine of her 11 kills after the first set. Campbell rallied from an early 4-0 deficit to tie things up at 10-10 but never led in the second set. Malden followed with a 10-2 run to take a comfortable 20-12 lead on its way to a 25-16 victory in the second set.
Malden secures its fifth straight Bootheel Conference tournament championship at the varsity level with the 25-21, 25-16 win against Campbell.
“The seniors have played on varsity and won it all four years,” Crane said. “I think seniority helped us tonight because these girls have been in this game every year.”
Malden finished the title game with 20 kills while Campbell managed 11 kills.
“Their middle hitting was tough to stop tonight,” Campbell coach Gentry Vancil said. “We struggled with that and our passing on serve receive. We just couldn’t get our offense going as well as we needed to tonight.”
The title game was played in front of a noisy, rambunctious crowd that filled most of the south side bleachers in the gymnasium.
“I appreciate the support we had today,” Vancil said. “The fan support was awesome. It means a lot to Campbell right now to have that. It’s the first time in a very long time to have both teams in a conference championship, much less win one.”
Crane said the staff at her school took steps to make sure a large number of students attended the game.
“Our teachers and coaching staff at Malden really stepped up this year,” Crane said. “There were incentives provided for students who came to games. We appreciate all the teachers and staff that stepped up. We had plenty of supporters here and we used our crowd.”
Campbell, which finished a perfect 6-0 in regular season conference play, has the pieces in place to make serious noise in the Missouri Bootheel in upcoming season. The Camels return all but one varsity starter next season.
“We really worked hard this year to win the regular season conference title,” Vancil said. “We are young. We graduate one player and start a very young squad so there is a lot to look forward to here.”
Campbell also has the luxury of having a group of upcoming talent that has enjoyed success. No. 1 seeded Campbell beat No. 2 seeded Malden 25-16, 25-20 in the junior varsity title game Thursday night.
“When we moved two freshmen to varsity at the beginning of the year these girls had a little bit of doubt,” Vancil said. “But they have pulled through. They are a confident group that doesn’t even think they can lose right now. It takes a lot to be able to teach a kid to win and this group of girls is a special group coming up and we are looking forward to having them heading into next year.”
Both teams turn their attention to preparing for the playoffs following conference play.
Campbell (16-7-5) has one regular season game remaining at Twin Rivers on Oct. 13 before it begins play in Class 1, District 2 at Bernie the following week.
“We are seeded third in the district and play Bell City in a district quarterfinal,” Vancil said. “If we get past them we play Bernie, which will be a tough game. We play Twin Rivers next Friday night, which will be a good game to get us ready for the district tournament.”
Malden (22-7-1) hosts Holcomb in its final regular season game Oct. 10 before it begins play in Class 2, District 1 at home the following week. The Green Wave remain in search of its first district title in school history despite its recent span of conference titles.
“We need to get our serves in and speed up our offense,” Crane said. “To beat Twin Rivers at the end of the season we are going to have to speed things up.”
No. 1 seeded Campbell beat No. 4 seeded Senath-Hornersville 26-24, 25-11 in the first varsity semifinal Wednesday.
“We came out a little nervous at the very beginning,” Campbell coach Gentry Vancil said. “There is a lot on the line for these girls right now and they haven’t been in this situation for a long time, so it is a learning experience right now for us. We’ve never been in a position to have this pressure on us. I’m proud of how we handled the second set tonight because we have struggled with the second set all year.”
No. 2 seeded Malden followed by hammering its way past No. 3 seeded South Pemiscot 25-8, 25-17 in the second varsity semifinal Wednesday.
“Our entire season, even back in the summer, hard hits have kind of been our mantra,” Malden volleyball coach Brittany Crane said. “We’ve went back to the basics in practice lately to try to get ready for Twin Rivers in the district and it has really helped them with their power hitting.”