Olathe East coach Brian Martin knew that repeating as Kansas Class 6A state champions would not be easy. In fact, the Hawks’ strongest competition landed in the same four-team pool with two semifinals berths on the line.
Sunflower League foes Olathe East and Olathe Northwest met in the third and final match of Pool I play on Friday and this time the top-seeded Ravens emerged victorious. They won 25-22, 19-25, 25-20 and advanced to the second day of competition with a 3-0 record. They will face Blue Valley Northwest, and the Hawks will play Washburn Rural when competition resumes at 10 a.m. at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
“They are battle-tested and there is not a single moment when I feel like we are in over our heads,” Martin said. “Even when we were down 24-20 (in the third set) I thought we still had an opportunity to come back.”
The Hawks, who returned their entire state-championship squad, entered this year’s tournament as the No. 4 seed with a 31-8 record, and won their first two matches before the loss to Olathe Northwest.
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The Ravens are much less experienced with two freshman and three sophomores earning significant starting time, but came in as the top seed with a 35-4 ledger.
“It’s been fun as a coach seeing them build confidence and see that we can play with some of the best teams in the state,” Ravens coach Barry Lenth said. “We just have to be on our game and focused because we have a smaller margin of error than most.”
Blue Valley Northwest, which finished second in the state last year, bounced back from a loss to Pool II champion Washburn Rural to win its next two and secure a spot in the semifinals. The Huskies defeated Wichita East in straight sets and fought back for a three-set victory against Maize.
Although Blue Valley ended its day with a victory against Hutchinson, the Tigers were eliminated. They finish the season with a 27-12 record.
Saints, Thunder move on
After winning six consecutive state championships across two classifications, St. James Academy entered this year’s tournament as the No. 4 seed.
However, the Thunder did not look like a fourth seed.
The Thunder rolled it first two opponents, Andover Central and Valley Center, in straight sets to win Pool I at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
“I think they feel like they have something to prove because we graduated an amazing senior class,” Thunder coach Nancy Dorsey said. “They definitely did that today and hopefully we can carry that into tomorrow.”
Driven by the chance to avenge last year’s state championship loss to the Thunder, St. Thomas Aquinas advanced to the semifinals from the other side of the bracket with victories against Newton, Bishop Carroll and Topeka Seaman.
Aquinas will face Shawnee Heights and St. James will face Bishop Carroll when play resumes at 2 p.m. or at the conclusion of the Class 6A championship and third place matches.
Miege, Louisburg advance
Defending Class 4A Division 1 champion Bishop Miege dropped its first match in three sets to Topeka Hayden, but roared back to knock off top-seeded Chanute and Rose Hill to clinch a spot in the semifinals at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
Louisburg also advanced to the semifinals after posting a 3-0 record and winning Pool II. The Wildcats defeated McPherson, Andale and De Soto.
De Soto was eliminated and finishes with a 29-13 record.