ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — The Maryville Spoofhounds have not dropped a set against Midland Empire Conference competition all season, and they continued that dominance on Thursday when they visited the south side of St. Joseph.
“It is showing us how good we are,” Maryville senior Kelsey Scott said of the conference success. “And if we play as a team, how great we are going to do.”
Benton (2-6, 1-2 MEC) entered the conference tied for third in the MEC, but the Spoofhounds established themselves early in the first set and cruised to a sweep. A pair of Serena Sundell kills sandwiched an ace by Morgan Stoecklein to put the Spoofhounds (13-2; 4-0 MEC) in front 3-0.
Senior setter Macy Loe turned in a big run at the service line to turn a 5-3 Maryville lead into 18-3. Scott and Sundell were busy during the onslaught collecting plenty of kills. After a hard-fought five-set loss to Rock Bridge in a battle of two of the state's top teams, Maryville put a emphasis on getting out to a fast start.
“It was nice to get in a rhythm, see that we are still doing well and that we can come out as a team and do well,” Scott said.
The Hounds say they learned plenty from the matchup with Rock Bridge, a Class 5 school from Columbia with a 13-1 record.
“I think the biggest thing we learned from Rock Bridge is our potential,” Maryville coach Miranda Mizera said. “I try to speak life into that potential so they see what they are capable of, but it was just really awesome to see that come to life on the court and for them to realize the ability they have.
“To come that close to beating a ranked Class 5 school and realizing that the loss came down to our own errors, that is awesome for us to be able to reflect on that, and see that when we have the right mindset and good discipline on the court, things go our way.”
Maryville was able to put the finishing touches on the first set against Benton with a kill by Morgan Stoecklein. The Hounds took the opening set 25-7.
One area that Mizera wants to see her team continue to grow with is following good starts with strong second sets.
“I really am looking to see how our girls respond in the second set and whether or not we can be consistent with that,” Mizera said. “It is always nice to start that way, but I'm really looking to see if we can finish that way.”
The second set on Thursday was quite what you would draw up as far as keeping momentum. Benton jumped on Maryville for a 5-1 lead which became 10-6 later in the set.
Maryville settled down behind strong play at the net from Scott. The senior had a kill and combined on a pair of blocks with Stoecklein and Jordyn Suchan to put Maryville back in front.
“Sometimes you have to watch and see what is going on to the other side,” Scott said. “I tip most times, but can get a kill when I see there is an open court.”
Benton tied the set at 11-11, but back-to-back Stoecklein kills gave Maryville back the lead at 13-11 — a lead they wouldn't relinquish again. Vierthaler and Sundell traded kills for four-straight points to stretch the margin to 20-13.
“I felt really good,” Vierthaler said of her play. “I got a lot of good passes and good sets which really helped. It felt good really good to get into a rhythm.”
Stoecklein finished off the second set, like she did the first, with a kill.
The third bore a striking resemblance to blowout in the first, rather than the competitive second. Sundell and Vierthaler had kills, followed by a Stoecklein ace to put Maryville up 5-0.
Kills by Stoecklein and Scott on the heels of a Sundell ace had Maryville up 15-4. Again, Stoecklein finished off the Cardinals. This time, she was serving and had back-to-back aces to send Maryville home with the win.
With its 4-0 conference record, Maryville is tied with St. Pius X atop the MEC. The Warriors swept Cameron on Thursday and have also not lost a conference set all season.
Maryville is set to close the regular season at St. Pius X on Oct. 20. Before that, the Hounds have road trips to Cameron on Saturday and Chillicothe next Thursday.
“I don't think being undefeated matters as much as going into the tournament, — whatever it is, conference, districts, state — with confidence, knowing that whomever the opponent is at that time, you are going to take care of them,” Mizera said.