The Hannibal volleyball team is on the verge of a third straight undefeated record in the North Central Missouri Conference.
The Hannibal volleyball team threatens from all positions on the court.
That's exactly what coach Kelsey Whitley wants, especially as North Central Missouri Conference play winds down and the Class 4 District 8 Tournament awaits.
Kyler Rademan and Kaylee Falconer, who split time as the Lady Pirates setters, have a broad array of weapons to which they distribute the ball.
Safe to say the offense is clicking.
Hannibal (17-9, 9-0 NCMC) soared to a 25-14, 25-13 win over Kirksville (14-11-2, 4-6) on Tuesday and can secure its third straight undefeated march through conference with a home victory Thursday over Boonville.
“It's really nice having really strong outside hitters and middles, right sides, we have it all across the board,” Rademan said. “Instead of just going to one person all the time, I can go anywhere and I trust my teammates to make good plays.”
For as dynamic as Hannibal looked in the later stages of the win Tuesday, the hosts got off to a slow start.
“In the first set we had a hard time handling the things that were on our side,” Whitley said. “We had a lot of unforced errors. In the first four servers, we had three missed serves. Six of their first eight points came from us. The game of volleyball is really easy if you don't have to earn any points.”
The Lady Pirates recovered.
Hannibal broke away from Kirksville in the first set with a 9-2 run aided by kills from Rademan, Claire Thomas and Abby Baumann and a pair of aces from Shelby Nelson.
“We always start off a little slow,” Rademan said. “During these conference games we've been trying to start off stronger to get ready for districts, so I was just trying to get the team together and push for points. Once we start getting kills, there's really no stopping us.”
The Lady Pirates kept momentum in Game 2 as Maddie Janes came up with a block kill and Falconer recorded two aces to boost the hosts to the first eight points.
“We just needed to step it up and play our game,” Baumann said. “When we're up, we're up and we just keep rolling so that's good.”
Janes later delivered a back-row kill to aid in the attack.
“We're good enough that we can utilize the back row,” Whitley said. “We haven't done a great job of it up until the last few games. We're now doing a really nice job, and I'm really excited for them to continue in the postseason.”
On the cusp of victory, Thomas called for the ball from Rademan and smoked a rocket of a kill in the middle that made it 21-13.
Baumann recorded an ace before Thomas and reserves Payton Frick and Peyton Utterback finished off the match with kills.
“Once we get our momentum going, Claire especially, once she gets a good kill the whole team just gets really excited for each other and we work really well together,” Rademan explained.
Baumann has proven to be Hannibal's top hitter in conference play, leading the Lady Pirates in kills on six separate occasions. She finished Tuesday's match with five kills and seven digs.
“The setters place the ball good and we find a way to swing,” said Baumann, making her hard work sound simple.
Hannibal's do-it-all senior middle Nelson recorded three kills, six digs and a pair of aces, while fellow middle Thomas contributed four kills and a block.
“We've finally kind of gotten into a rhythm in our front row,” Rademan said. “Our middles have started moving around a lot more, which has helped us a lot against stronger teams.”
Rademan finished with 12 assists on the night, while Falconer recorded eight.
“They are doing a really nice job keeping the ball moving, but that's also something that's keeping us as successful as we are,” Whitley said of her setters. “They're knowledgeable of that, making sure we run a middle, run an outside, push it back, because it keeps their blockers guessing what we're going to do.”
That will become especially important come postseason, which begins Monday with a first-round district game against Columbia Battle.
Battle ended Hannibal's season a year ago.
“That if anything should have a fire underneath us that we've got to go," Whitley said. "We've got things that we're working toward, and this is just another stepping stone to get us where we need to be.”
Before postseason, Hannibal looks to take care of business with a win in its final match of the regular season.
The Lady Pirates have yet to lose a set in NCMC.
Despite having already mathematically claimed the conference title, Whitley noted her squad doesn't plan to celebrate until after Thursday's match.
“I think it being Shelby Nelson's senior night means more to them than a conference title,” Whitley said of the final home match. “They will work hard for her because she's put in hard work throughout the entire season and her four years with our program.”
Hannibal JV sweeps Kirksville
The Hannibal junior varsity team defeated Kirksville 25-10, 25-16 for a home sweep on Tuesday.
Utterback led Hannibal (13-8) with seven kills and two blocks. Emma Deien recorded four kills, four digs and three aces, while Frick and Dani Brown combined for 12 set assists.