It took a day for Booneville’s volleyball team to get their feet under them at the recent Branson volleyball camp, but once they did the team played superbly.
The LadyCats won games against perennial powers Douglass, Kan.; Jonesboro Westside, and Catoosa, Okla., and eventually made their way to the finals of bracket play, defeating Poplar Bluff, Mo., in the semifinals to avenge a loss. They won the first game of the finals against Bolivar, Mo., but then had to settle for the runner-up position after the Missouri team won the last two games.
Booneville was in the second highest bracket at the camp and their game win over Douglass, which was in the highest bracket, was one of the high points, as was the come-from-behind win over Poplar Bluff in which they had to hold off a match point.
New coach Candy Goff is installing a new system and she was impressed with how quickly the team picked it up. Two players — Haley Carter and Kate FitzPatrick — have returned to the team, and Macy Geddes, who had a knee injury that forced her to miss the last third of last season, has fully recovered and was ready to show her stuff.
Junior libero Paisley Templeman was named to the all-camp team. After a slow start, Templeman on the last two days had 115 digs total and a return percent of 80.5, including 91 percent against Jonesboro Westside. She became the first Booneville underclassman to be so honored.
The LadyCats opened against Hollister, Mo., and had an uneven start. Booneville struggled in attack as well as in digging, and the setting was uneven at best. Hollister won the match as Booneville only scored nine kills, led by Emma Ramey with three. Coach Goff then decided to try a system in which Maddie Herrera was the lone setter and at first things were smoother as Haley Simpson was on. The LadyCats won the first game 25-18 but struggled badly in the second as their returning was way off. Catoosa won the second game convincingly; Simpson finished with four kills in as many attempts, with Aleeah Blansett finishing with two kills and two blocks.
Facing Lone Jack, Mo., Booneville’s attack got better as Haley Carter, who had struggled in the first two matches, finally got going and scored with four kills in the match. Simpson added three and the LadyCats won the first game 25-18, but they again struggled in the second game, dropping it to the Mules 25-13. The slump continued against Poplar Bluff as they lost the first game 25-10; they took the battle to PB in the second game and had chances to break through, but lost 25-22.
A very tough assignment awaited Booneville in the first match of the second day as they faced the Swathers of Hesston, Kan., who was the Class 3A runner-up in that state for 2016. Though Hesston won, the LadyCats made the Swathers work very hard for it. Paisley Templeman, Carter and Kate FitzPatrick all dug very well and Carter scored with three blocks as well. Booneville also missed only one serve in the match. They faced Mountain Grove, Mo., in the second match and this time the serving abandoned the LadyCats as they missed six serves. Macy Geddes, though, was on, with three kills and three blocks and Blansett added four kills and three blocks in a losing effort.
It all finally came together against Douglass, Kan., who was fourth in Class 3A last season. The LadyCats had an incredible attacking match as they only missed two attack attempts for a percentage of 94 percent. Templeman acted like a fence in the back, denying the Lady Bulldogs time and again, digging at 85 percent. Herrera also had an outstanding match setting at 79 percent, which led to the Booneville attack being so productive. Simpson had six kills in the match but it was Jordan Weaver who put away the kill to win the first game for BHS 28-26. The LadyCats also had chances to win the second game but couldn’t close the deal, losing 25-20.
A more confident Booneville team took the court for the first match against Jonesboro Westside, a perennial Class 4A power. Carter came to play and Geddes ripped five consecutive aces in the first game. Templeman again was incredible on defense, eventually digging at 91 percent. Carter also was digging very well; Booneville dominated the first game and won 25-18. They continued to roll early in Game 2 and eventually led 20-13, but Westside then made some adjustments and blazed back to win that game. Carter scored with seven kills and Geddes added four kills to her five aces; Herrera had 15 assists and Templeman collected 21 digs.
In the tournament, the LadyCats faced a rematch with Poplar Bluff and the Mules won the first game, but the LadyCats came on again. Booneville and Poplar Bluff fought it out and the Mules held a match point but BHS fought it off and won the next two points to force the third game. The LadyCats grabbed an early lead and never really let PB back into it, with Weaver finishing off the Mules with an ace. Carter had five kills, missing only two attacks in 19 tries; Simpson and Geddes each had three kills, with Templeman getting 19 digs and Herrera 13 assists, with Casey Townsend, in a new role as defensive specialist, shining as well.
That sent Booneville to the finals against the Crusaders of Bolivar, Mo., and Carter was on an incredible roll. The 6-1 senior had three consecutive kills in the first game as BHS took the lead but Bolivar fought back. Both teams had multiple game points, but at 27-27 Bolivar hit one out and then Weaver scored on a kill for the first game. The second game was again close with Booneville again breaking on top, but this time Bolivar got the upper hand late in the game, winning 25-22 to force game three. Bolivar scooted to a lead in game three; Booneville got back within one on a couple of occasions, but the Crusaders were able to close out the match. But that was not before Carter had scored with nine kills; Geddes added three, with Blansett putting down four blocks, Herrera getting 14 assists and Templeman 25 digs.
Booneville also brought second and third teams to the camp. The second team gave a very good account of themselves and appeared to be the first to catch on well to the new system, winning two matches and tying one on the first day. They went 2-1 on day two and lost their only pool match on the third day before giving 6A team Siloam Springs all they wanted in the tournament. With Ramey, Kelsey Mikles, Adria Coffer, Shelby Posey and FitzPatrick the primary attackers, Melissa Humble and Jessica Parrish setting and Mariah Frost serving as libero, they showed that the LadyCats are a deep team. The third team also had some really good moments, with players such as Gloria Parazzolli, Rebecca Walters, Piper Long and Taylor Miller making their own argument for playing time.
There was also time for non-volleyball activities during the camp, such as a round of miniature golf, which was interrupted by a heavy pop-up rain shower. That, coupled with awards and other activities, has helped bond the 24 players for the upcoming season. The LadyCats will play a benefit at West Fork on August 17 before opening the season at Atkins on Aug. 21.