Maddie Janes can't quite put her finger on why the Hannibal volleyball team was in a rut midway through September.
After starting the season 4-0, Hannibal dropped five matches over the course of four days — including four losses at the Rockwood Summit Tournament on Sept. 15.
Suddenly the season was at a crossroads.
"None of us really knew what was wrong. We all were just playing flat," Janes said.
The Lady Pirates were swept by Quincy Notre Dame three days later and their record bottomed out at 5-5.
The trend has since reversed.
Hannibal has earned eight wins and one tie in its past nine matches, and its momentum was on full display over the weekend when the Lady Pirates claimed the Troy Tournament championship.
"We're feeling really good about that," Janes said. "We usually don't do so good in the Troy Tournament, so it was really good to win that. We were all just connecting and talking and that helped a lot. It worked out for us."
Hannibal breezed to a 25-3, 25-7 win over Brookfield on Tuesday night at Korf Gymnasium to improve to 13-5-1 on the season.
Janes paced the Lady Pirates with six aces and five kills in the win.
"Maddie is a player we can't afford to have off the court," Hannibal coach Kelsey Whitley said. "She brings it in everything. She serves tough, she gets good touches on the block, she can roll shot, she can tip, she can hit line."
Abby Baumann provided four kills on the outside, while Claire Thomas had four in the middle. Emma Deien and Kaylee Falconer each added three kills.
Kyler Rademan dished out 13 set assists, while Haley Ballinger led with five digs.
Hannibal posted 15 aces against the Lady Bulldogs, with five players serving at least one.
"For us to have 15 aces in 50 points, that's a lot — enough that I can't really give them grief about missing four serves," Whitley said.
Thomas and Peyton Utterback, who combined for 35 kills and 12 solo blocks over the weekend, have emerged as formidable threats in the middle for Hannibal.
Credit for the high-octane offense belongs to all six players on the court.
"The touches the middles are making are really good," Whitley said. "They are getting set a lot more, and I credit that to our passers doing their job behind the line so we can run the offense we want."
Up next for Hannibal is a match at Rock Bridge on Thursday before playing in the Quincy Tournament this weekend.
"We just want to focus on talking and keeping up our intensity because our next games are going to be really hard," Janes said. "We need to make sure we're playing clean."
From there Hannibal looks to complete its fourth straight undefeated run through the North Central Missouri Conference and then peak in time for district play.
Advancing through districts is the Lady Pirates' top goal this season after losing in the semifinals a year ago.
"We think this could be our year," Janes said.