The best-case scenario for a team coming off a volleyball state championship is to return all of its starters.
Not only does Olathe East — winner of the Kansas Class 6A state title last year — have that scenario, but he Hawks reutrn every single player from last year’s champion team.
That experience and the squad’s veteran players have propelled Olathe East to a 9-1 record this season, inlcuding a 5-0 mark in the Sunflower League.
Although there are many advantages to that position, Hawks coach Brian Martin is quick to remind his girls that they have to keep improving.
“It is important that we are trying to make ourselves better each day, because if we stay still and teams are preparing for us, that would put us behind,” Martin said.
Olathe East will face a tough test this weekend at the Hayden Tournament in Topeka, with Hayden, Louisburg and Bishop Carroll in its opening round. St. Thomas Aquinas, Silver Lake, Mill Valley and Manhattan are on the other side of the bracket.
Olathe East’s Kelli Kalinoski and Marissa Round are returnees who were Kansas Class 6A all-state first-team selections last year. Round was also tabbed as the player of the year, and Martin was honored as coach of the year. Kalinoski, meanwhile, was the Sunflower League co-Player of the Year.
Thunder win MO-KAN Tournament
In a Kansas Class 5A volleyball state championship rematch last weekend, St. James Academy downed St. Thomas Aquinas to win the MO-KAN Tournament.
St. James went 6-0, with victories against Lafayette, Kearney, Shawnee Mission East, Blue Valley West and Blue Valley, before defeating St. Thomas Aquinas 25-18, 25-18 in the final.
Audriana Fitzmorris led St. James with 79 blocks and a .489 hitting percentage. She also had 34 digs and seven blocks.
Saints second in nation
The St. Thomas Aquinas girls cross country team just can be slowed down, not even by the graduation of two seniors from last year’s Kansas Class 5A state championship squad.
In fact, this year’s Saints team may even be faster.
Aquinas is ranked second in the nation among teams that run 4Ks, with an average time of 14 minutes, 58.18 seconds and a split of 34 seconds among their top five runners. Haley Dietsch leads the Saints’ pack with a time of 14:39.20, followed by Emily Downey, Abbey Hopfinger, Olivia Rode and Maggie Sieben.
“I suppose it’s the best we’ve ever had and we’re having a lot of fun with it,” Aquinas coach Justin Wrigley said.
As for the reason behind the Saints’ success, Wrigley said it’s a combination of determination and the successful culture of distance running at the high school that has earned the girls team three state titles in the past five seasons.
“We’ve had several special groups come through that seem to keep raising the bar and bringing up the expectation levels, so the next group gets their turn to run with it and be leaders,” Wrigley said. “There is a sense of pride and they want to live up to that and make those other kids proud.”
The Saints will try to continue their success on Saturday at the Baldwin Invitational.