FUN-LOVING HORNETS: Advance volleyball opens state tourney against Santa Fe

Advance's Alyssa Miles (22) hits against Holcomb's Bailey Cupples during the second set of the Class 1 quarterfinal Saturday at Bloomfield High School.

BLOOMFIELD — Advance volleyball coach Erin Hoffman wants her team to have fun.

She illustrates that philosophy at the start of every match. During player introductions, every player gives the coach a high-five, and most have a big smile on their faces, including the coach.

Hoffman smiles a lot during matches and rarely raises her voice.

That philosophy — along with plenty of talent — led the Hornets to the Class 1 state championship last year and helped them return to final four this season.

The Hornets (34-2) will join Billings (22-5-2), Calvary Lutheran (23-6-3) and Santa Fe (33-1-3) in the final four beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.

Advance will open the pool-play, semifinal round at 10 a.m. against Santa Fe. The Hornets will face Calvary Lutheran at noon and Billings at 2 p.m.

The teams with the two best records in pool play will compete for the state championship at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The other two teams will compete for third place at noon.

A rematch of last year’s state championship match could happen because 2018 state runner-up Calvary Lutheran is back. The Hornets, who went 6-0 in pool play, beat the Jefferson City school 25-12, 25-23 in the title match. They defeated Calvary Lutheran 25-17, 25-20 in pool play.

“I just want them to play their game and I want them to be proud of what they’ve done,” Hoffman said of her expectations for this weekend. “That’s my main thing — to have fun and love the sport.”

Senior all-stater Roz Schrader agreed.

“Just have fun. That will get you really far,” Schrader said. “Those teams at state are going to be good. They’re going to get points, so we can’t get down if they do.”

The Hornets have accomplished a lot this season, winning the Perryville and SCAA tournaments and placing second in the Jackson tournament, which featured multiple Class 4 teams.

“We played Lindbergh (in the championship match),” Schrader said of the Jackson tournament. “We went three sets. It was a really good game.”

Class 4 Lindbergh beat the Hornets 25-21, 18-25, 25-21. Jackson handed the Hornets their only other loss in a best-of-five set match, 30-28, 17-25, 25-18, 25-17 earlier in the season.

“We learned where our holes are sometimes (and) how we need to get our blocking speed better,” Schrader said of playing those larger schools.

Senior Alyssa Massa said that beating Dexter in the championship match of the SCAA tournament for the second straight year was a highlight of the season.

“We’ve just done it for our fans and our community,” she said of this year’s accomplishments.

The Hornets went undefeated in SCAA play to win the conference’s regular-season championship.

Advance played a tough schedule en route to the final four, going 17-2 against larger schools, including 4-2 against Class 4 schools and 6-0 against Class 3 teams. Six of the Hornets’ opponents won district championships and two of them (Perryville and Valle Catholic) reached the state quarterfinals.

Hoffman said her team will be prepared for the state experience.

“We were there last year, so they know what steps need to be taken now to be successful at the next step,” Hoffman said.

After losing only two seniors from last year’s squad, including starting setter Addie Curtis, Schrader began thinking about Advance repeating as state champion over the summer.

“That was our plan from the beginning,” Schrader said. “We want to do the same thing as last year — get out of school one day and go to state.

“This summer, we may not have talked about it, but it was in our minds. Right when the season started, we were like, we’re going to get our stuff together and start getting ourselves working together as a team so we can go to state.”

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