The Jefferson City Lady Jays had the hot hand entering Tuesday's match against the Helias Lady Crusaders.
Her name is Annabelle Maassen.
"She just amazes me on a daily basis," Jefferson City coach Lisa Hoffmeyer said after the Lady Jays defeated the Lady Crusaders 25-17, 25-20 at Fleming Fieldhouse. "The way she sees the court is so impressive. You can literally see her survey the court before she puts a ball in play. Her court awareness is pretty special."
Jefferson City didn't trail until it was 15-14 in the second set, and quickly took the lead back with four straight points.
"We knew it was going to be difficult," Helias coach David Harris said. "We'd dig a hole and then fight and climb our way out of it and dig another hole and climb our way out of it."
The Lady Jays scored six consecutive points to reach match point, including three of Maassen's game-high 16 kills.
The score reached 21-17 when Maassen sent one to the back right corner. She spiked one to the other corner two points later and squeezed another just inside the back line for a 24-17 lead.
"We know that they've been playing really well this year and Annabelle's hard to stop," Harris said. "When she would go rotate to the back row, then we would score some points and kind of catch up a little bit. But then when she'd rotate back up to the front row, then it was difficult.
"And when we would get a dig or something, then we're not be able to put the ball away and they just were able to set her again."
Helias had one last run with a kill from Molly Bruns and two from Chapel Dobbs to cut it to 24-20.
The match ended with a lengthy volley that concluded when a Maassen spike flew high in the air off Helias and dropped in front of the net.
"We're feeling pretty confident about our group moving forward," Hoffmeyer said. "We feel like we're playing really good ball at an important part of the season. We feel like we've made a lot of corrections on things that we kind of saw as weaknesses or things that other teams would be capable of picking us apart on."
Jefferson City opened the match with a 4-0 run and led 8-3 after kill for Abby Baughman, one of seven seniors honored during Senior Night.
Maassen, Emily Houser, Ella Wang, Hannah Reid, Grace Bailey and Riley Bohanan were also recognized prior to the match.
Helias cut the deficit to one three times, including at 16-15 when Jordan Benward found the back corner for one of her three kills.
Jefferson City then closed out the fist set on a 9-2 run.
Helias led the second set 2-0 before the Lady Jays rolled off five straight, capped by a Paige Reeser kill.
Reeser was second on the team with four kills and led with 22 assists. She also had six digs.
Maassen finished with five digs and Bohanan ended with a team-high nine digs. Sydney Vogt had eight digs, Reid finished with six and Baughman tallied four.
"Discipline on defense really is kind of the biggest one," Hoffmeyer said on what the the team has improved in. "We kind of had a habit of chasing the ball in. We would a lot of times end up with all of us in the middle of the court as opposed to defending the edges a little bit better."
Sarah Linthacum led Jefferson City with four blocks. Rhakala Blackmon and Kayla Walters each had one.
"Our block obviously has gotten a lot more consistent," Hoffmeyer said. "Our middles are now keeping up with first tempo balls, which is something we've kind of struggled with early in the season."
Cadie Buschjost led Helias with four kills, tying the score at 13 and 14 in the second set.
"It was very nice to see because to sit on the bench for 20, 25 minutes and get cold and come out there, she did a great job for us coming off the bench giving us some energy," Harris said.
Landrey VanOverschelde had eight assists and Claire Bonnot had seven. Lacey Heidbrink led the Lady Crusaders with 11 digs.
Tuesday's win completed the regular-season sweep of Helias for Jefferson City, the first time the Lady Jays have done that since 2013.
The teams won't have a home-and-home series starting next season since each team in the Central Missouri Athletic Conference will face each other once.
"We hate to lose that," Hoffmeyer said. "It's just such a good rivalry game, good for the town, good for the crowd, good for both schools.
"I think it's just is overall a very positive crosstown rivalry. A lot of mutual respect I think. We hate to lose that second match, but I imagine it will be filled with probably a lot of those same feelings when Capital City kind of replaces that game."
Helias (14-9) will play Saturday at the Clinton Tournament.
Jefferson City (25-3-2) plays Thursday at Hickman.
Helias won the JV match 22-25, 25-8, 25-21 to improve to 20-8.
Sydney Mingucci led Helias with 11 kills, Tori Schmidt had a team-high 19 assists and Beth Luebbert finished with 22 digs.
Hannah Linthacum tallied 22 kills and five blocks for Jefferson City, while Claire Stegeman had 17 kills and Abby Blake led with 25 assists.
Jefferson City's JV team is 13-11-1.
Helias won the freshman match 25-9, 25-14.
Hannah Luetkemeyer, Kambrie Lenox and Abby Heckman each had four kills.
Josie Morasch finished with seven assists and and a team-high nine digs.
Lauren Reid led Jefferson City with eight digs and six assists.