Last year’s loss in the 6A state finals left a sour taste for the Blue Valley girls volleyball team, so the Tigers were determined to return.
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
After defeating Blue Valley North 25-11, 25-18 in the substate final on Saturday night they’re one step closer. With the victory, they advance to the state tournament next week in Topeka.
“It means a lot to me,” senior Rachel Gearon said. “It’s really exciting to go back there and finish our business this time.”
Freshman Lauren Stubbs led the Tigers with six kills while junior Mary Hastert added 13 digs and Meghan Kennedy had 22 assists.
The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set and never lost their lead. The second set, however, brought some trouble. Again, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead, but the Mustangs fought back and took a 9-8 lead.
“You kind of lose focus when you switch sides and you’re all hyped up from winning, but everybody has to calm down and we did that well,” Gearon said.
Sure enough, Blue Valley was able to pull away after taking back the lead at 18-14, winning seven of the next 10 points.
“My team has a lot of character and we work on this kind of stuff in practice,” Blue Valley head coach Dave Johnson said. “They got into a little rut, but showed their true colors and fought back.”
It was the second two-set victory for the Tigers, who defeated Shawnee Mission North earlier in the day, 25-5, 25-4 to advance to the substate final. Blue Valley Northwest advanced from the other bracket after a three-set victory against Blue Valley West.
Last season’s appearance at state ended an 11-year drought for the Tigers, who made it to the finals before losing to Washburn Rural, which has won the title the last two years.
One of the biggest differences for Blue Valley has been Johnson who took over as coach two seasons ago.
“I think that he is the reason we have so much heart in the games because he loves it so much,” Gearon said. “We really play for him and each other.”