SERGEANT BLUFF | Kylee Christensen and her volleyball teammates celebrated much more than a Missouri River Activities Conference Tournament championship Monday night.
A Northwest Missouri State commit, Christensen was recognized for surpassing 1,000 career kills following a 23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 26-24 that carried sixth-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton past No. 3 Bishop Heelan in a classic matchup of Class 4A squads in front of the hometown fans.
A 6-foot senior middle blocker, Christensen supplied 28 kills and 12 blocks during two tournament matches for Sergeant Bluff-Luton (38-3), which last Tuesday defeated the Crusaders in a four-game thriller to win the MRAC regular-season title.
“(Passing 1,000 kills) means so much,” said Christensen, whose coach, Renee Winkel, was also cited for topping 100 career wins in just her third season as head coach.
“Not only for me, but you can’t have 1,000 kills without your setter, your back row and even the other hitters. I don’t think it’s only my accomplishment. I think it’s the team’s accomplishment. I think it’s cool that Lexi (Sneller) got her 1,000th (assist) and I got my 1,000th. Who knows what’s next?”
Winkel guided the Warriors to both the MRAC regular-season and tournament championship for the second time in the last three years. She and her former head volleyball coach from Briar Cliff, Mary Miller, saw their respective teams engage in a wild Game 4 battle as Heelan (31-10) rallied from a 15-10 deficit to take three late one-point leads, including Samantha McCabe’s kill for a 24-23 lead.
Christensen tied the set with a kill, 6-foot-2 junior middle blocker Madison Harms snapped the tie with a kill and McCabe’s hitting error for match point gave the Warriors their third win over the Crusaders, all of the matches taking place in the last 10 days.
“This is exciting,” said Winkel. “There’s definitely a sense of pride in this accomplishment, especially defeating a quality team like Heelan. (Heelan) really brought it tonight. It was an ugly win and they made us work for it. Hats off to them.
“I’m really proud of the way my players gutted it out. It was not pretty and my players knew it. One thing about this team, they definitely find a way to win.”
Sergeant Bluff-Luton takes a six-match winning streak into an Oct. 24 semifinal Class 4A Region 2 match at its home court against the winner of Wednesday night’s first-round match between No. 15 Harlan and Perry. It was more than just Christensen and Harms, as the Warriors spread the wealth with Kenzie Foley (16 kills) Elle Sneller (8 kills) and Abby Wisecup each recording timely kills in the title match.
Balance like this could carry the Warriors to possibly a second state tournament berth in the last three years, as Heelan, a state semifinalist a year ago, is in Class 4A Region 1, idle until Oct. 24 when it hosts Wednesday’s first-round winner between Carroll and Denison-Schleswig.
“A lot of our success comes from us spreading it around,” said Christensen. “Blockers tend to go to the same person who is consistently hitting. Tonight, we found success spreading the ball because it leads blockers in other directions.”
Miller felt her team improved from last Tuesday’s four-game loss to the Warriors.
“We’re right there,” she said. “We played a lot better than we did last week against them. We made some adjustments defensively and were able to dig a few more balls against Harms. Christensen hurt us again. She’s just so powerful. But our kids played hard.”
Harms had 18 kills and 15 blocks for Sergeant Bluff-Luton while Foley contributed 16 kills and 41 digs. Setter Lexi Sneller dished 60 assists while back row players Abby Minten and Brooklyn Huberty had 36 and 20 digs, respectively.
McCabe provided 19 kills and 23 digs for Heelan while Jacobson contributed 16 kills and 21 digs. Setters Emma LaFleur and Jordyn Knapp finished with respective totals of 27 and 18 digs while Alex Hope and Katelyn Stanley each recorded two blocks.
Lineya Wells and Kirstin Sykes posted 18 and 16 kills for the third-place East team while Emma Harmelink added 13. Setter Chloe Kramer dished 59 assists while Josie Blake had 36 digs.
Grace McLoud provided 16 kills and four ace serves for the fifth-place North squad while Kylee Eickholt supplied 12 kills and 19 digs. Setters Hailey Hoogers and Maeve Coughlin each dished 23 assists, Kenidi Valladolid had 20 digs, Kaityn Mulder had 13 kills and Ashlyn Williams had three solo blocks.