TOPEKA — Blue Valley almost made it to the promised land Saturday at the Kansas Class 6A volleyball tournament in the Kansas Expocentre.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
The Tigers, who advanced to state for the first time in 11 years, beat Gardner-Edgerton 25-20, 25-21 in the semifinals, avenging a regular-season loss to the Trailblazers. But Blue Valley lost to defending champion Topeka Washburn Rural 25-19, 25-19 in the championship match.
The Tigers jumped to a 5-2 lead in the first game, but the experience of the Junior Blues showed as they came back for the win. The Tigers were hurt by three service errors.
Blue Valley again led 5-2 in the second game but Washburn Rural rallied again, winning its second straight 6A championship.
It was a bitter sweet moment for the Tigers. They had reached the championship match for the first time in school history but came up short.
“They were better than us today,” first-year coach Russ Johnson said. “They served better and passed better than us.”
Johnson pointed to a match at Blue Valley Southwest as when the team came together.
“We were 15-9 then,” he said. “Everything came together after that.”
The Tigers finished 31-13.
“They got what we were teaching them,” Johnson said. “We wanted an aggressive attack, good ball control and lots of communication.”
Senior Megan Bell said, “This means a lot. Our goal was get to state and we got second. This is a good way to go out.”
“It was an honor to play here,” senior Anna Burton said. “We worked hard to get here and the hard work paid off.”
Junior Chloe Rogers added, “We did a lot of drills about coming back and a lot of conditioning. Our seniors gave us strong leadership. Our seniors pushed us to get better.”
Gardner-Edgerton lost in two games to Blue Valley in the semifinals, 25-20 and 25-21, but beat Sunflower League champion Olathe East 25-16 and 25-18 in the third-place game. The Trailblazers also finished third in 2011.
“Unfortunately we have seven seniors on this team,” coach Darrell Wait said. “This is a great group of girls.”
The Trailblazers, who finished 37-8, were the only team to beat Washburn Rural in the tournament. They accomplished the feat in pool play Friday.
Olathe East, which lost 25-15, 25-14 to Washburn Rural in the semifinals, also finished fourth in 2011. The Hawks ended their season at 35-8.