Pleasant Hill had a volleyball season beyond compare last year, which is why Chicks coach George Creason doesn’t dare compare this year’s team with that one.
The Chicks finished 34-3-1 last year and reached the Class 3 state final, the best finished in Pleasant Hill volleyball history.
It seems downright unfair to compare these Chicks, who lost five starters, to last season’s squad.
“They don’t like that,” Creason said. “It’s not good for them, and last year’s team may have been the best one we’ve had at Pleasant Hill, so I try intentionally to let them be their own team and not play in the shadow of last year’s team.”
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Creason still has a strong team, good enough that Pleasant Hill was unbeaten record into last weekend’s Bronco Invitational at Lee’s Summit North.
The defending champion Chicks flexed some muscle again, reaching the final before a 25-20, 26-24 loss against Ozark, but it’s aanother feat Creason wasn’t interested in stacking up against last season’s team.
“With what we graduated last year, even with several girls coming back, we’ve still got several girls that are new to the varsity level,” he said. “As long as we see improvement every week, that’s what we’re really pleased with.”
Creason had to replace five starters off last year’s team, which dominated Bronco Invitational despite being the only non-Class 4 team in the field, but he also had plenty of talent returning and several newcomers who have already blended in well with the veterans.
Pleasant Hill is again tall, with four players standing 5-feet-10 or taller.
That includes Logan Gish, a 6-1 senior outside hitter who led the Chicks with 102 kills after the tournament along with Ana Hanes, a 5-10 junior outside hitter who had 95 kills, and Morgan Gish, a 5-11 junior right-side hitter who totaled 64 kills.
“The cupboard is definitely not bare,” Creason said. “We’ve got a few girls from last year who are playing college ball now, but the girls we did have returning on varsity, they’re good players.”
After opening pool play with a tie against St. Teresa’s Academy, Pleasant Hill (10-2-1) beat Springfield Central then suffered its first loss of the season against Park Hill South 25-17, 25-15.
The Chicks rebounded to outlast Jefferson City 25-19, 25-23 in the first round of winner’s bracket play and avenged the loss to Park Hill South 25-17, 25-18 in the semifinals.
Powered by strong outside hitting from Logan Gish and Hanes, Pleasant Hill jumped out to big early leads in both sets.
“That’s basically what our offense rotates around,” Creason said. “Most teams who see us know we’re going to go outside, and that makes it a little bit harder on the outsides because the other teams know to key on that.”
Logan Gish, who had a team-high six kills in the semifinal, finished with 12 in the final against Ozark, a Class 4 final four team last year.
Ozark used late surges in both games to ice its victory, including a 5-1 spurt that erased a 23-21 Chicks lead in clinching the win.
“As long as we see improvement every week, that’s what we’re really pleased with,” Creason said. “I thought the girls played well and overall we had a good tournament.”
Raymore-Peculiar advanced to the consolation bracket final, where the Panthers lost to Lee’s Summit 25-19, 25-22.
The Panthers split with Ozark, beat Liberty North and lost to Lee’s Summit West during pool play.