DISTRICT CHAMPS!!! Mt. Vernon volleyball tops Nevada for championship title, falls in sectionals

The Mt. Vernon Lady Mt’neers are district champions for the first time since 2020 after avenging a September loss to Nevada in the district championship game 3-1. Tuesday, Oct. 24.
The Lady Mt’neers began their district run against a Cassville squad who Mt. Vernon defeated in three sets earlier in September. The district semifinal game was very similar as Mt. Vernon dominated the Lady Wildcats in three sets again, led by sophomore Hali Stokes’ 13 kills and freshman Ziah Schmutz 10 kills. The Lady Mt’neers cruised to the three-set sweep by scores of 25-17, 25-15 and 25-17.
After defeating Seneca 3-0, Nevada was the opponent for the Lady Mt’neers in the district title game. Nevada’s big middle hitter Delaney Hope was an issue for the Lady Mt’neers early as the Lady Wildcats jumped to a 5-0 lead. Mt. Vernon senior Payge Evans started the comeback as back-to-back aces cut the lead to 7-4. Stokes finally got going and two booming spikes brought Mt. Vernon to a 11-7 deficit. Sophomore Camryn Cornell cut the lead to just two after two kills herself. Mt. Vernon used the momentum to eventually tie the set at 21.
“It showed a ton of grit,” Coach Bridgett Schmutz said about falling into the early hole. “I told them that we were down 5-0 and haven’t been able to execute our game plan yet. I went back to the 2020 district championship game against Lamar where we went up big early, but it took 29-27 to win that one and I had the gut feeling that we were going to be fine.”  
Rae Downing put a kill down to give the Lady Mt’neers their first lead at 22-21. Mt. Vernon went to take a 24-21 lead, Nevada responded with a 3-0 run to tie it at 24. Freshman Ziah Schmutz put down the final kill in the opening set to win 27-25.
After losing the first point in the second set, Mt. Vernon responded with the next two to take a 2-1 lead. They would hold the lead until Nevada responded to take a brief 11-10 lead. The seesaw battle would continue as there would be four more lead changes, but Mt. Vernon would ultimately use a 6-1 run late to take set two 25-19.
Self-inflicted errors and conservative play haunted the Lady Mt’neers as Nevada jumped out to a 9-3 lead early. Mt. Vernon showed more resilience as they used a 6-0 run to cut the lead to just one at 16-15. However, the Lady Mt’neers wouldn’t be able to complete the comeback and Nevada forced a fourth set 25-18.
Just as the first three sets began, Nevada struck with the first point, but the Lady Wildcat lead did not hold as the Lady Mt’neers took the next two points. Nevada took back the lead in part of a massive 9-2 run as they opened up a 10-4 advantage. The cardiac Mt’neers rallied for the fourth straight set with a near 90-second rally ending with a huge kill from Schmutz to cut the deficit to two. After more back and forth, Hali Stokes gave Mt. Vernon the lead at 21-20. The fantastic set continued. Nevada took a 26-25 lead and the Lady Mt’neers had their backs against the wall. After an error from Nevada tied the game at 26, before Schmutz picked up a block to take the lead. On the ensuing serve, Schmutz ended the game with a perfectly placed ace and the Lady Mt’neers were district champions.
“It was not the spot I gave her,” head coach Bridgett Schmutz said of watching her daughter secure the win. “I want to make that clear but it was pretty cool that Ziah got the final ace.”
Ziah was equally pumped for the win.
“Mom is definitely on my butt sometimes but it’s been great having this opportunity to go through this with her and to have my mom as the coach. She is rooting for the best in me even if she is yelling.” freshman Ziah said.
Lone senior Payge Evans is no stranger to district success as she was a freshman on the 2020 team, but was also a leader on the state championship softball team from a year ago.
“This feels really good,” Evans said. “It’s been different than softball was but these girls, the atmosphere and all the work that we put into it makes it just as special as softball.”
Sectionals against Mountain Grove
The win set up a sectional game with Mountain Grove. Mt. Vernon opened the game hot but the Lady Panthers held a lead until a Teagyn Huver kill gave Mt. Vernon a 13-12 lead. The teams traded leads until another Huver kill tied the game at 23. Much like what plagued the Lady Mt’neers all set long, serves out of bounds ended up doing the Lady Mt’neers in during set one that went to Mountain Grove, 26-24. The next two sets were all Mountain Grove as the Lady Panthers took the second set, 25-20, but Mt. Vernon never held a lead. The third set was also Mountain Grove wire-to-wire as the Lady Mt’neers season came to an end 25-15.
The Lady Mt’neers finish the season 20-12-4, good for the highest win total since that 2020 season.
The Lady Mt’neers are poised to have a huge season again next year but will have to do it without three-year, starting libero Evans. Evans as the lone senior finishes with a 72-49-10 record with a laundry list of awards that has already started growing, being named to this year’s All-Class 3 District 12 1st team.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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