They’ve celebrated 31 wins, but each one is special for the Strafford volleyball team.
Strafford advanced in the high school playoffs with a third consecutive district tournament championship by beating Skyline in the semifinals and Ash Grove in the final on Tuesday night at Strafford High School. The defending Class 2 semifinalists beat Ash Grove 25-10, 25-10 in the Class 2 District 12 championship match to advance to sectionals. They celebrated the win by posing for a photo with their entire student cheering section.
Coach Ashley Bough credits Strafford’s 31-1-1 record to a selfless attitude from each player on the roster.
“The thing I love the most about my team this year is that they get excited for every single person out there, no matter if they are involved in the play or not,” Bough said. “They want the team to be successful first and foremost.”
Junior Chole Rear, a Missouri State commit, paced Strafford’s attack with 13 kills, five assists and three digs. Senior Rilie Vote had eight kills, four serving aces, six digs and block against Ash Grove.
“(Vote) is a phenomenal player, she’s just a great kid. She’s one of those kids that you would have to drag her out of the court if she was bleeding, because she would want to stay in the game and play,” Bough said.
Strafford will play in the sectionals in Sarcoxie against Mountain View-Liberty. Should they win, they would play in the state quarterfinals the same day. Vote is ready for the opportunity.
“It’s amazing playing with these girls, and our coaches are amazing. I couldn’t ask for any other team, honestly,” Vote said.
For Ash Grove, being in the district championship match was an accomplishment. Ash Grove (20-12-3) beat Fair Grove 25-22, 16-25, 25-18 to advance from the semifinals. The Pirates had not beaten Fair Grove in two previous tries this season.
“(Ash Grove) had a lot of momentum coming from beating Fair Grove. That was an amazing game, and we knew they were a scrappy team,” Vote said.
Ash Grove coach Stephanie Curbow explained that her team took a “nothing to lose” approach to playing against Strafford.
“The girls — we’re so proud of them to beat Fair Grove, and we were just coming off that energy and hoping that would be enough for Strafford,” Curbow said. “The girls were happy when they were done. There were really no tears. We were so excited about that Fair Grove (win).”
Ash Grove tallied 26 digs in the loss to Strafford, led by eight from Canyon Gouty and seven from Stefani Duncan. Bough complimented the effort.
“Ash Grove — there’s balls that go down on most people that they did not let go down tonight,” Bough said. “They’re just that kind of team, they play with heart, they play with hustle, so they’re a great program.”
Just two more wins separate Strafford from a return to the final four in Cape Girardeau, but the team isn’t looking past sectionals.
“We’re going to have to play our best and be disciplined out on the court. I think my kids can do it, I believe in them with my whole heart,” Bough said.