Poplar Bluff volleyball team reaches final of SEMO Conference Tournament, falls to Jackson

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Needing to win four games in as many hours to claim the SEMO Conference Tournament, the Poplar Bluff volleyball team fell in the final Thursday night.

The Mules reached the final for the first time by winning consecutive three-set matches before falling to top-seeded Jackson 25-10, 25-18 at the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex.

“I think we played well considering, but I think that (long night) had a play in it,” Mules coach Aimie Simmers said.

The Mules (20-13-2) were seeded fourth out of the North Division after going 1-2-1 in pool play Tuesday night.

After knocking off Charleston 25-7, 25-10 with 19 aces in the first round, the Mules beat Kennett, the top-seeded team from the South Division, 25-23, 19-25, 25-15.

In the semifinal against Cape Central, Poplar Bluff rallied 20-25, 25-14, 25-16 to face Jackson.

The Indians, who beat the Mules 25-22, 25-21 in pool play, held off Poplar Bluff from forcing a decisive third set to claim the championship for the second time in three years.

“We just couldn’t get over that hump,” Simmers said. “You over think things, then you turn around and make mistakes that you normally would not. We just have that Jackson curse where we let them get to us.”

The Mules could earn another shot at the Indians in the semifinals of the MSHSAA Class 4 District 1 tournament, which will be held at Cape Central High School. Poplar Bluff is the fifth seed and will face Hillsboro in the quarterfinal at 5:30 p.m. Monday. The winner advances to play top-seeded Jackson at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Cape Central earned the third seed in the tournament before the Mules beat the Tigers 25-20, 25-16 on Monday. The following night in pool play, the Tigers won 25-23, 25-23.

Prior to the seeding of the district tournament, the Mules had losses against Jackson and Farmington, which picked up the No. 2 seed.

“I think it fired them up more than anything,” Simmers said of the district seeding. “They really started pushing harder in practice. I think it pushed us to be that much better.”

The run through the conference tournament Thursday might be good practice.

In the final against Jackson (26-8-3), Khelie Spence led with seven kills and a block while Kiley Bess had six kills. Haley Slaughter had six assists and Zoe Savat added five.

“It showed us that we are capable of more,” Simmers said of reaching the final after being seeded fourth.

In the opening match against Charleston, Spence had nine of Poplar Bluff’s 19 aces, finishing two shy of the team record. The senior also had six kills.

Bess led with seven kills and two blocks and was one of seven Mules with at least one ace along with Slaughter (3), Savat (2), Johnson (2), Kingree (1) and Corcimiglia (1).

Spence had seven of Poplar Bluff’s 16 aces against Kennett as Savat chipped in five. Bess led with seven kills and two blocks.

Bess also led in the semifinal with eight kills and four aces to go with two blocks while Spence had seven kills and two blocks. Slaughter led with 11 assists and had three kills and an ace. Hannah Corcimiglia added four kills, Sierra Sievers added three along with Emma Johnson. The Mules had eight blocks.

The Mules were knocked out in the semifinal in each of the previous four conference tournaments, twice by Notre Dame and twice by Jackson.

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