Plastered with mud from head to toe, the Mud Studs team was all smiles Thursday night after the final point of the Mississippi Mud Volleyball Junior Tournament at Y Men's Club.

Plastered with mud from head to toe, the Mud Studs team was all smiles Thursday night after the final point of the Mississippi Mud Volleyball Junior Tournament at Y Men's Club.

The squad of eighth-graders made the most of their final chance to play in the youth bracket, posting an undefeated record to finish on top.

“We wanted to win it because it's our last year playing junior,” said Zack Friedersdorf of Palmyra. “We just went out there and played the hardest we could and talked and came together as a team and we won it.”

The championship squad featured Ethan Beroiza, Linnea Brown, Bella Falconer, Friedersdorf, Emme Kirn and Courtland Watson.

The Mud Studs credit their communication as how they gained an edge during their five victories, including the final two matches when they fended off the second-place Muddy Diggers, who posed the toughest threat to the title.

“At the beginning of the tournament, we knew we needed to communicate,” Watson said. “When we practiced, we went over some things that we needed to do. We got together and we thought we could win the championship.”

Indeed they could, and indeed they did.

After the Mud Studs defeated the Muddy Diggers in the semifinals, the Muddy Diggers topped the Cassano's Mud Pies to represent the loser's bracket in the championship.

As stormy weather approached downtown Hannibal, the tournament was put on a lightning delay that pushed the championship match back 30 minutes.

“We were just kind of hoping we would get to play tonight and be over with it,” Falconer admitted. 

Her wish was granted.

The Mud Studs won the first game of the finals 15-9 to claw within one game of the title. After falling behind in Game 2, the champs closed on a strong run to win 15-10.

“Just winning all of our games was awesome,” Beroiza said. “Most of us have been together in school since kindergarten, and we're just really good friends. It was just fun playing with everybody.” 

More than half of the winning team are classmates. Four are students at Holy Family Catholic School, while Brown goes to Hannibal Middle School and Kirn attends St. Peter School in Quincy.

Kirn, a friend of Falconer, said Thursday was her first experience watching or playing mud volleyball.

“I thought it was kind of crazy at first when we came to practice, but today was just fun,” she said. “Good way to spend time with your friends.”

Brown mentioned her team was easygoing but focused during the 16-team, double-elimination tournament. Play began at 5 p.m. and finished at 10:30 p.m. under the lights.

She gave praise to the boys on her squad. 

“The boys are real easy to play with,” she said. “They're really open. Everybody is really nice to each other and helps each other know what we need to do better but without being rude.

“It's just so fun. It's once a year, and you've got to do it. I hate mud, I hate dirty stuff, but once a year I'll get in the mud and I'll play volleyball.” 

For Friedersdorf, winning the junior tournament was a dream come true after spending many Fourth of July weekends around the adult tournament.

“I've been out here just about every year watching mud volleyball, always wanting to play,” he said, noting he played for the first time in 2015. “I finally got to play. Two years later, we win it. That was good.”

Muddy Diggers, second place: Brayson Douglass, Katie Greening, Kendel Locke, Kylie McAfee, Caden Selle, Kolin Westhoff and Callie Wright

Cassano's Mud Pies, third place: Andrew Catalpa, Jocelyn Dorsey, Ashlyn Hess, Jackson Naeve, Peyton Naeve, Ashlin Sharkey, Rory Stanley and Aneyas Williams