Inside the Simon Athletic Center at Maryville University, the gym was bursting Friday night. It was packed with family, friends, and fans from the two boys' volleyball teams competing in the Missouri Boys State Championship Tournament sponsored by All Volleyball, Inc. There was a sea of Black and Gold on one half and a multitude of Purple and Gold on the other. The smells of popcorn and hot dogs floated through the air, combined with the gym smells of wood flooring and hard work. The gym buzzed with such excitement and the anticipation before the Class 4 title match that it was almost too much to stand.
The Lafayette Lancers boys volleyball team was the No. 4 seeded underdog as they entered the Championship game. They climbed their way to the top, to take on the Christian Brothers College (CBC) Cadets, who were seeded 3rd. Again, there was a shadow of doubt from many spectators in the St. Louis volleyball community that Lafayette just couldn't shake. Here they were in the state championships and many thought they didn't have a chance.
That all changed when early in the first set, the Lancers took a 10-2 lead, and never looked back. They would go on to take the match from CBC 25-14, 26-24. The Cadets fought back in the second set, making it a nail-biting-hair-pulling-edge-of-your-seat kind of ending.
The turning point in the second set could not have come at a better time. Just as CBC was gaining the momentum, Lafayette's senior libero, Ryan Gettinger, dug a hard driven hit, barely getting underneath the ball. The volleyball ricocheted with such force that is soared over the net, somehow finding the only open spot just inside the deep corner on the Cadet's court. With one of the Top Ten Bump Kills of all time, Gettinger snatched the momentum right out from their opponents' hands.
"On that play, our block set up in a great spot, only gave [the hitter] one shot…Luckily it came off at a great angle and stayed in the court," said Gettinger remember the play after the match. It is surely one that he won't forget for a while!
And, with a kill from Lafayette senior rightside hitter, Alex Moll, those three distinct whistles, echoed throughout the already loud gym:
Game. Set. Match. STATE CHAMPS!
As the Lancers celebrated with their families, friends, fans and each other, there was a peculiar presence among the crowd. It was a life size Teddy Bear in a Lancers black uniform. Now, I know what you're thinking…and yes, Lafayette's mascot is a Lancer, not a Bear.
You see, the big, cuddly Teddy Bear is like the 11th man on the bench, according to Gettinger. One of the players from the girls volleyball team was asked to homecoming with the bear, but that wasn't the last of him!
He started appearing all over the Lafayette volleyball community. Most memorable was when he showed up in Coach Doug Ell's, sitting at his desk working, with a pen in his hand. From that day on, he became part of the Lancers storybook season – hanging out with the guys and even getting ready in the locker room pregame.
The bear was just one of the ways Lafayette made this season remarkable and memorable, especially for the seniors like Gettinger. As he goes off to the Naval Academy next year, the energy of the gym that night, the lingering smells of the concession stand, the roar of the crowd in his ear will stay with him for years and years to come.
Congratulations to the Lafayette Lancers on winning the Class 4 Missouri Boys State Championships, sponsored by All Volleyball, Inc.!! Best of luck in the coming years.