As soon as Carlie Fangman’s final kill smacked the court for Olathe East, tears started to well in coach Brian Martin’s eyes.
The road back to the Kansas Class 6A state title match had not been easy and the championship match was even harder. But the Hawks came out on top 19-25, 25-23, 25-22 against Olathe Northwest and Martin was determined to not miss a moment of it. He had gotten caught up in other responsibilities last time around.
“This was a grind of a season,” Martin said. “It seems like we always had a bump in the road or an injury. It didn’t always seem like we were at our best against teams we felt like we should have competed against better but these girls put it all together.”
The Hawks returned every single player from the championship team but entered this year’s tournament as a bit of an underdog with a 31-8 record and No. 4 seed. They won their first two matches, but fell to Sunflower League foe Olathe Northwest in the final stage of pool play on Friday.
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A dominant 25-12, 25-12 semifinal victory against Washburn Rural pitted them against the top-seeded Ravens again with a quick chance at redemption.
“I think we were really nervous coming into yesterday because we had previously lost our last match to them,” senior Kelli Kalinoski said. “Today I talked to them, and we all agreed that we were going to come out confident, and I think our first match against Washburn Rural put confidence in us.”
The Hawks dropped the first set to the Ravens, but battled back to take the next two and the title away from top-seeded Olathe Northwest.
“My concern was that they have a lot of seniors and they have been here before and we have a really young team,” Ravens coach Barry Lenth said. “I think the stage in little moments was a little much for our freshmen and sophomores, but to their credit in the end they played through it.”
Olathe Northwest finished with a 39-5 record.
Huskies third in Class 6A
Blue Valley Northwest came into this season looking to improve on its runner-up finish from last season. That was part of what made the team’s loss to Washburn Rural in the first match of pool play on Friday at the Kansas Class 6A state tournament especially painful.
However, the resolve the Huskies showed during their next five matches helped them recover and take third place behind Olathe East and Olathe Northwest.
After the loss, Blue Valley Northwest defeated Wichita East and Maize on Friday to advance to the semifinals. It lost there to Olathe Northwest but redeemed itself with a two-set victory against Washburn Rural to end the tournament.
“That’s a team that took us pretty easily in the first day of pool play and the first match out,” Huskies coach Molly Haggerty said. “I’m extremely proud of how they bounced back and took that match.”
The Huskies won 25-23, 19-25, 25-23.
“We have high expectations but I definitely felt like we were the underdogs coming into this season,” Haggerty said. “We started out pretty low in the rankings, but consistently as we went through the season, they started gaining respect and proving people wrong. They worked so hard.”
The Huskies finished with a 34-9 record and were the top finisher out of the Eastern Kansas League.
Saints dethrone Thunder in Class 5A
The enthusiastic dogpile and echoing alma mater signaled the wave of relief that flowed over the St. Thomas Aquinas volleyball team after knocking off its rivals in the Kansas Class 5A state title match.
The Saints had adopted the motto “unfinished business” after a three-set loss to St. James Academy a year ago and avenged that loss in straight sets (25-23, 25-22) at the Kansas Expocentre. They finished with a 42-4 record and a perfect 5-0 ledger in the state tournament where they did not drop a single set.
“It feels awesome,” Saints coach Kim Bogart said. “I have a bunch of seniors and a team that knew they could do it. They wanted to do it for each other and came together.”
The victory also snapped a string of six consecutive state titles for the Thunder across two classifications with the most recent two coming in Class 5A. They finished the season 40-7 with a 4-1 record at the state tournament after going undefeated and dropping just one set the season before.
The 2013 state championship only added fuel to an already healthy fire created by an Archdiocesan rivalry and busy schedule between the schools which met four times during the regular season. Aquinas took a 3-2 edge in the series with Saturday’s victory.
“We see each other so much and they are a phenomenal team,” Bogart said. “We played hard and came out and won. It was very exciting.”
Aquinas led by as many as six points in the first set before seeing the lead dwindle to one point, but it hung on for the 25-23 victory.
St. James came roaring out of the break to establish a 6-1 lead which they later extended to 10-4. Aquinas was prepared, though, and answered with seven consecutive points to take the lead. St. James rallied, but could not overcome the deficit and fell in straight sets. It was the first two sets the Thunder dropped during the two-day tournament.
“We finished the business and it was amazing,” Saints senior Carlyle Nusbaum said.
Miege wins 4A Division I
Bishop Miege coach Gwenn Pike was not sure what to expect from her Stags this season. The defending Class 4A Division I champions lost some talented seniors and suffered some early-season injuries but still soldiered on to the state tournament with a chance to repeat.
Even in Salina, they faced some adversity, losing the first match of pool play to Topeka-Hayden, but roared back to win four straight matches including one against Hayden to take their second straight title.
“We didn’t really talk about the repeat, because we were really just working for this year so it is amazing,” Pike said. “It’s amazing to think it happened for this team to do it since it is such a different team and a different dynamic.”
The Stags not only won, but did so in straight sets 25-19, 25-12 at the Bicentennial Center.
“All the girls served and passed so aggressively and we answered back with some outstanding plays and attacks,” Pike said. “We also played really great defense with some key blocks. All gears were running, everything was moving and we knew that was what we would have to do.”
In the semifinals, Miege defeated Louisburg, which had gone 3-0 in pool play on Friday. The Wildcats lost 25-18, 23-25, 25-22 to McPherson to finish fourth.