Olathe East High School volleyball coach Brian Martin knew his team’s experience as Kansas Class 6A defending state champions would be a huge factor. Still, he might not have expected that his Hawks would be tested on the tournament’s first day.
Despite returning their entire state title roster, the Hawks entered the tournament with a 31-8 record. And they got a wake-up call on Friday when top-seeded Olathe Northwest dealt Olathe East a loss in three sets. Olathe East advanced to the second day and to the state title match, but ended up having to face the Ravens again and lost the first set 25-18.
“After losing the first set, we talked about how this is not us and we needed to change something,” Olathe East senior Kelli Kalinoski said.
The Hawks certainly did, as they bounced back to take the next two sets 25-23 and 25-22 to repeat as Kansas Class 6A state champions.
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“It’s awesome because we got to do it with the same team,” Kallinoski said. “We defended ourselves, even though we had a rough season and some injuries. I’m so proud of these girls. It’s like the memories are just multiplied.”
Olathe East finished its season with a 35-9 record.
Class 5A: Saints are champs!
The St. Thomas Aquinas volleyball team entered the season wanting nothing more than to step out of St. James Academy’s shadow.
The Thunder beat Aquinas in three sets to win the Class 5A state title last year, and the two teams split the series this season. That left the door open for Aquinas to dethrone the defending state champions.
Aquinas did so in calculated and methodical fashion. The Saints needed just two sets to win, 25-23 and 25-21, on Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
“They beat us last year, so we had some fire in us,” Aquinas junior Regan Pittman said on Saturday. “We were all very confident coming into it. This is definitely a night to remember.”
The Saints did not drop a single set in the state tournament and finished the season with a 42-4 record under coach Kim Bogart.
“In two games – it feels awesome,” Bogart said. “We played hard and came out and won. It was very exciting.”
It was the Saints’ first state title since they won back-to-back state championships in 2006 and 2007.
St. James Academy finished its season with a 40-7 record.
Class 4A: Bishop Miege repeats
The key for the Bishop Miege volleyball team at the state tournament was just how the Stags would respond to a three-set loss to Topeka Hayden to open pool play on Friday.
Fortunately, Miege – the defending champions – fought through injuries and lineup changes all season, which gave them the resolve to bounce back.
“I knew Hayden was a talented, athletic team and starting with them in the first match of the tournament was tough,” Miege coach Gwenn Pike said. “They played a better game than us and we knew we were better than that. We knew we could do better, and that’s what I asked the girls to do ... to play the way we were capable of and see the end result. Once we got a hold of it, all cylinders were going.”
The Stags won their next three matches in straight sets, which included a 25-19, 25-12 victory against Topeka Hayden to capture the Class 4A Division I state title at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
It was the sixth state title in the last seven seasons for Bishop Miege, which dropped from Class 5A to Class 4A last season. The Stags finished with a 35-10 record.