JayCee Richter was just eight years old the last time the Linton/HMB volleyball team made a trip to the state tournament.
The now 16-year-old was an integral part of snapping that seven-year drought Saturday afternoon.
Linton/HMB faced and swept District 5's top-seeded Carrington at Jamestown's Harold Newman Arena. The Lions finished the regular season at a perfect 18-0 and recorded five sweeps in postseason play. The loss ended Carrington's season at 15-5.
"It feels so amazing," Linton/HMB head coach Jaime Richter said. "These kids have worked so hard. They are so unselfish and they come to practice every day with so much heart. They deserve this.
"With my daughter on the team, it just makes it that much sweeter."
Richter has been starting for the Lions' varsity squad since her eighth-grade season. Richter was in the back row her first three seasons suiting up as the team's libero.
"She just knows the game so well," coach Richter said of her daughter. "This is the first year I switched her to outside so it's been an adjustment for her. She's been a libero her whole life, she's never hit even in JOs."
So far this season Richter has racked up a whopping total of 180 kills and 75 aces. The starting outside plays all six-positions and has tallied 321 digs passed up to setter Gracie Schumacher
"Her back row is definitely her strength," coach Richter said. "She got the dig record for our school last year as a sophomore and the ace record is close. Now that we are going to state she might be the ace leader (for Linton) of all time."
Richter's career totals 1,814 balls saved and put down for points. Richter broke the team's ace record in Saturday's game tallying 303 in her career.
Richter was a part of the squad that faced and fell to Carrington in last season's Region 3 tournament semifinals. Coach Richter said the team knew they had the capability of making it to the top of the region this season but added that sacrifices had to be made en route to the Region 3 title.
"We knew that we would have to work on our offense," Richter said. "We were going to have to pick up the pace and the speed of the game, which we did."
Despite the seemingly lopsided scores, the Lions' front row delivered, Carrington did not make it easy for the visitors on the scoreboard.
With the exception of a 5-1 run by the Lions to end the first set, Carrington was within just four points of taking the lead. The first set saw three tied scores and three lead changes en route to Linton's eventual 25-20 victory. Richter and Teegan Scherr fueled a series of 3-1 and 4-0 runs to clinch set No. 1.
Sydnie Grager did her part for the Cardinals in the first, frustrating both the front row with multiple rejections at the net and the defense with six kills drilled in front of the 10-foot-line. The 6-foot middle finished her season on top of the Cards' blocking charts with six stops up front. Grager put up an even 70 her senior season.
"They are a great team, they've got great athletes, they are well-coached. We knew it was going to be a battle," Carrington head coach Megan Trautman said. "I just tried to tell the girls to really stay aggressive on offense."
While Grager and Hannah Hagel led aggressive play at the net, Linton went on to prove just why the team was undefeated.
The Lions went on an early 13-4 run to establish a nine-point lead, which would later grow to double-digits. Carrington tried to rebound and came within seven but Linton's steady defense anchored by junior libero Callie Hase and powerful front row ended it 25-13.
"I think we just had a few little mistakes where we weren't communicating," Trautman said. "In a game like this those little mistakes can make a huge difference."
A few more mistakes by the Cards cost them the third and final set.
Linton established an 18-10 lead that the Cardinals did their best to chip away at, going on a 7-3 run to make it 21-18 Linton. The Lions took control with the final four points remaining ending it 25-18.
"I've been taking these kids to JO tournaments since they were third-graders," Richter said. "These volleyball players ... they are like my kids."
Linton/HMB 3, Carrington 0
L/HMB 25 25 25
CAR 20 13 18
L/HMB -- Kills: Teegan Scherr 10, Richter 7, Kim Gefroh 7, ShayLee Bosch 6, Emily Kelsch 3, Callie Hase 1. Assists: Schumacher 32. Digs: Hase 24, Richter 16, Scherr 10, Kelsch 5, Gefroh 4, Schumacher 2, Bosch 1. Aces: Richter 9, Scherr 3, Schumacher 2, Hase 1. Blocks:: Schumacher 4, Kelsch 3, Bosch 3, ,Gefroh 2.
CAR -- Kills: Grager 6, Hagel 6, Lexus Page 3, Taryn Hoeckle 1, Bre Mittleider 1. Assists: Tessa Page 15. Digs: L. Page 13, T. PAge 13, Hagel 9, Mittleider 7, Grager 6. Aces: Mittleider 1. Blocks:: Grager 6, Hagel 3, Haley Wolsky 1.