Sep. 17—CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Perhaps Cheryl Sharples should have bought a lottery ticket when she was a 22-year-old kid and strived to be a high school volleyball coach.
With Carl Junction's 3-0 victory over McDonald County on Thursday night, Sharples became just the 12th coach in Missouri volleyball history to achieve 500 career wins, according to the Missouri High School Volleyball Coaches Association.
"It's a little surreal, actually," Sharples said. "As a 22-year old kid, I said, 'Hey, let's win 500 matches.' All of a sudden, it's here 24 years later. I guess it's something I have always had in the back of my mind as a coach. To attain it, I'm extremely excited about that. It's amazing. I have been blessed to have some really great teams and great kids that have bought into my program, and kept us successful."
Sharples' first stop as a volleyball coach came at Purdy from 1997-2002 then Odessa in 2002-04, Diamond 2005-10 and Carthage 2010-15 before she was hired at Carl Junction in 2016.
In total, Sharples has won nine district championships and been part of four Elite Eight teams.
Carl Junction senior Jessa Hylton, who led the Bulldogs with nine kills and seven aces, said Sharples has been an amazing influence in the lives of all of the players.
"It's awesome to see her be happy," Hylton said. "She definitely deserves 500 wins. She brings so much energy. She just makes us all happy."
The Bulldogs (5-2) dominated from start to finish against the Mustangs, winning by scores of 25-8, 25-11 and 25-6.
Carl Junction rolled into the first set with a 12-2 advantage after Hylton and Maggie Brown tallied six aces. Fittingly, Hylton punctuated the opening set with an ace as the Bulldogs finished it off with a 13-6 rally.
McDonald County opened the second set with a 7-3 lead, but Carl Junction responded with a 9-1 run to take a 12-8 lead after an ace from Kylie Scott. The Bulldogs closed out the second set on a 13-3 run which ended on a Mustang attack error.
And the third set was Carl Junction's most dominant. Logan Jones and Scott each tallied two kills apiece while Hylton added one to help the Bulldogs jump out to a 14-4 lead.
Carl Junction clinched Sharples' 500th career win thanks to back-to-back aces.
"Coming in, we wanted to play at a level we are capable of playing," Sharples said. "We focused a lot on serving yesterday in practice. We brought out what we did and put it out on the court."
Carl Junction had a number of different players contribute, including Scott who tallied five kills and five aces. Jones had a team-high 20 assists to go along with four kills and three aces.
Brown came up with six aces while Destiny Buerge contributed four kills and eight digs.
"When we are passing well and have good ball control, we have great hitters that can execute and it makes us dangerous because we really do have so many weapons," Sharples said. "That is something we are focusing on all the time."
One of the biggest things that has stuck with Sharples in her life is her unwavering love for volleyball. But what she enjoys the most is cultivating relationships with her players and watching each of them grow as players.
"She is always strict, but she is like a mom," Hylton said. "She is just so sweet. We get along with her. Everyone gets along with her. Hopefully, she keeps going and gets some more wins. We love her to death."
What's the next milestone Sharples has in mind?
"We won't set one of those yet," Sharples said with a laugh.