Perryville holds off nemesis Dexter to win first district volleyball title since 2013

Dexter High School Principal Alana Dowdy (right) hands the district championship plaque to Perryville's Emma King (left) and Avery Wibbenmeyer after the Pirates beat Dexter 25-14, 25-27, 25-18 to win the Class 3 District 1 title on Tuesday night at Dexter.
DEXTER STATESMAN/Kyle Smith

DEXTER — The Perryville volleyball team exacted a bit of revenge Tuesday night in the Class 3 District 1 tournament.

The top-seeded Pirates won their first district championship since 2013, beating their nemesis Dexter 25-14, 25-27, 25-18.

“It feels pretty good,” Perryville coach Cindy Cissell said of ending her team’s six-year district championship drought. “They’ve worked hard all year. I just couldn’t be any more proud of them. They’ve really come through.”

Perryville had reached the district title match three times since winning it and advancing to the state quarterfinals in 2013. Each time, the Bearcats beat Perryville to win the district crown.

Cissell said beating Dexter was especially sweet.

“It feels pretty good. It feels real good,” she said.

Perryville will face the District 4 champion in the sectional round on Saturday at Ste. Genevieve. Fifth-seeded Ste. Genevieve knocked off top-seed Park Hills Central and second-seeded Festus to win the District 2 title. Game time has not been announced.

Championship matches in the District 3 and 4 tournaments are scheduled for Wednesday.

The Pirates (25-6-2) had to overcome an injury to Ashlyn Hotop in the third set and the never-quit Bearcats. Cissell said that Hotop felt her left knee pop.

Dexter, who trailed by as many as five points early, fought back to take a 10-9 lead on a block by Bailey Chamberlain.

Perryville pushed its lead back to five (19-15) when Hotop was injured. Sophomore Ellie Martin replaced her in the lineup and she produced a kill on the next play.

“I tell my setter, ‘somebody comes in, you’ve got to go to her and get her involved in the game right away,’ ” Cissell said. “Get the nerves out of them right away. They don’t have time to get nervous in a game like that.”

The Bearcats (20-10-4) never came closer than four points the rest of the way, and Perryville finished the match with back-to-back kills by Makenna Bollinger.

“Playing two tough teams back to back, going three sets both times, (isn’t easy),” Dexter coach Starla Pulley said. “They gave a lot of heart. I’m proud of them. They dug deep when they were tired until they couldn’t give any more. That’s all you can ask.”

The Bearcats beat Notre Dame 25-12, 14-25, 25-17 in the semifinals, and Perryville beat Kennett 25-11, 25-13.

The Pirates used a 9-1 run to take control of the first set. Kristen Kaempfe produced three of her team-high 10 kills during that stretch.

Perryville looked assured of victory in the second set, using a 9-0 run to take a 14-6 lead.

“Dexter’s no slouch,” Cissell said. “Dexter’s got a very good team. You let them breathe a little bit, and they’re going to take you.”

Pulley took a timeout with her team down by eight points, and the Bearcats began to crawl back into the match.

“The last timeout I took, which was early, I talked about leaving it all out there” Pulley said. “They haven’t worked this hard to go out there and not play hard. They did. They went out and battled every point and made Perryville work.”

The Bearcats used a 4-0 run to cut Perryville’s lead to 17-15 and tied the set at 21 and 22 before taking a brief 23-22 lead on a kill by Alexa Werneck.

“We really talked a lot about the defense and the never-die attitude and playing to win instead of playing not to lose,” Cissell said. “That’s (playing not to lose) what happened the second set.”

Another kill by Werneck gave Dexter a 24-23 lead, and the Bearcats tied the match at one game apiece on three straight kills — two by Werneck and one by Blair Rogers.

Seniors Werneck and Rogers finished with 13 and nine kills, respectively.

“Our two seniors did a good job of pulling them together, getting them going,” Pulley said. “We had moments there when we had a chance and we just couldn’t get a kill or a play.”

Avery Wibbenmeyer paced Perryville with 29 assists.

“Perryville’s a great team,” Pulley said. “They have a great little setter. She runs a great offense. If you have a good setter like that, it’s going to be hard to beat a team like that.”

Dexter 2, Notre Dame 1

The Bearcats won a match full of dramatic momentum shifts.

Dexter used runs of 6-0 and 6-1 to win the first set.

The 6-0 run gave the Bearcats a 9-4 lead and included a kill and a block by Chamberlain.

The 6-1 rally ended the opening set and featured two kills each by Chamberlain and Rogers.

The second set featured Notre Dame taking an 8-5 lead behind kills by five different players.

Pulley called a timeout, and the Bearcats kicked into high gear with a 7-1 run to take a 12-9 lead.

The teams traded points before Notre Dame caught fire, closing out the set with a 14-1 run to tie the match at one game apiece.

Rylee McClintock had six of her team-high seven kills in the second set.

Dexter never trailed in the third set, although the Bulldogs kept fighting, tying the score at 8 and trailing by one two (13-11) midway through the set.

The Bearcats scored 11 of the final 17 points to close out the match. Seven of those points came on kills with Werneck producing three of them.

Rogers and Werneck led the Bearcats with nine kills each, Chloe Thurmon had six and Chamberlain and Dulcie Pullen had four apiece.

The Bearcats held a 34-22 edge in kills.

Notre Dame finished its season with an 18-10-6 record.

Perryville 2, Kennett 0

The Pirates denied the Kennett Indians their 20th win of the season.

The Indians couldn’t string much together, scoring no more than two straight points.

Conversely, Perryville used runs of 3-0, 5-0, 3-0 and 4-0 to win the first set. Makara Warner had three of her four kills in the opening game.

The Pirates put together three 4-0 runs in the second set and clinched the win on a kill by Jaiden Garris, who led her team with six.

Kaempfe had five kills, including the winning point in the first set.

Perryville had a 19-9 advantage in kills.

Macy New and Camille Thomas paced Kennett with three kills each.

The Indians finished the season with 19-10-3 record.

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