High School Sports

State volleyball recap: Kansas royalty earns 1,000th career win, reaches semis

Lansing volleyball coach Julie Slater
Lansing volleyball coach Julie Slater The Wichita Eagle

Volleyball season is show-off time for the Kansas City area.

Last year, the KC area brought home Kansas high school state championships in the top three classifications. More could be on the way in 2019. Here is a recap of the biggest action:

Lansing coach wins 1,000th at alma mater

In 1982, Julie Slater came back to Lansing and never envisioned Friday night.

Slater had just graduated from Kansas State after a volleyball career that took her from Lansing, where she was part of the first freshman volleyball class, to Kansas City Community College. She accepted the volleyball coaching job straight out of college.

It is the only full-time job she has had since.

Friday night in Salina on the first day of the 2019 Kansas Class 5A state tournament, Slater joined coaching royalty with her 1,000th career win as her alma mater beat Goddard 25-12, 25-22 to qualify for the state semifinals for the third straight year.

Slater said she didn’t talk about it at all throughout the season or ahead of the state tournament. She didn’t want that kind of spotlight. But when the milestone came, her players knew.

“Knowing how special it is to play for her and knowing how amazing her connection is to Lansing, knowing all the great players she has coached, it’s just crazy to think that we’re in those shoes,” senior Samantha Moburg said. “We are those players now.”

Slater is in her 34th season at Lansing. She said the decision to come back goes year to year. Slater is 223 wins away from the all-time record in Kansas, set by Miege’s Gwenn Pike. Pike finished her 36-year career in 2015 with a 1,225-239 record.

If she is still having fun, she will keep coming back, Slater said. And 2019 has the potential for a lot of fun.

Lansing will face St. Thomas Aquinas in the semifinals Saturday after winning its pool. The Lions are 35-4, and their four losses this season have come against fellow state qualifiers, including two against Aquinas. Both of those losses came in their first two weeks of the season.

Friday, though against three Wichita area teams, Lansing looked almost unbeatable with what Slater called, “the whole package.”

“We’ve got more offensive power than we’ve ever had,” Slater said. “Ever.”

Lansing is loaded with talent across the front line, headlined with Kansas pledge and senior Karli Schmidt. Many of the Lions have played with Slater as their club coach since they were 11. Schmidt said Slater pushes her every day to be better in every way.

“The main thing is tradition, and she really instills that in us,” Schmidt said. “We do a lot of things together like team dinners. It feels so close this year but yet so far. We have such a good chance to do it. It’s literally right there in our hands.”

Slater has won only one state championship in her time as a volleyball coach. She has come runner-up several times and reached the semifinals several others. This year’s Lions are chasing a title for Slater, and Slater said she knows it.

Slater said there is an unspoken bond between she and her players. Although she downplays her accomplishments at Lansing, she knows her players look up to her, she said.

And that would make a title plaque that much sweeter. But even if the Lions don’t get it done in 2019, Slater’s impact will last longer than the memory of a trophy.

“It’s really special,” Slater said. “My mom taught there. My dad graduated from Lansing. All three of my kids went to Lansing. We bleed red.

“You don’t get in it for state titles. You get in it because you love kids, and you love the sport. My goal was always to build a strong program, but I never had any clue this would happen.”

St. James looking for thunder once again

The two-time defending champion is on pace for more.

St. James Academy went 3-0 in Pool B, the undisputed tougher of the two groups in Class 5A. The Thunder started with Bishop Carroll, who reached the semifinals last year, winning 25-18, 25-14 to kick off the entire tournament.

Carroll was arguably the best team in the Wichita area in 2019, and St. James played a near flawless match on Friday.

The Thunder followed it with a resounding rematch of last year’s championship match against St. Thomas Aquinas. St. James won 25-19, 25-12. During the regular season, St. James split with Aquinas, and there was only one set where the losing team didn’t hit 20 points.

Friday was another story. The win clinched St. James’ spot in the state semifinals for the fifth straight year.

“We do a ton of scouting, so we know what we’re up against and what their strengths and weaknesses are,” coach Nancy Dorsey said. “At the end of the day, you’re asking teenagers to execute that game plan, and I think they did that perfectly.”

St. James will face the runner-up out of Pool A, Goddard, who finished the regular season 31-7 and lost to pool winner Lansing 25-12, 25-22.

Aquinas still in the fight

Aquinas lost its most important match of the season Friday in Salina, but the chance for a state championship isn’t gone.

The Saints lost to EKL rival St. James Academy 25-19, 25-12 in pool play. It decided who won the group and who came runner-up ahead of Spring Hill and Bishop Carroll. Aquinas has work to do, but at least it still in the fight.

Aquinas lost in last year’s Class 5A state championship match to St. James 26-24, 20-25, 34-32. The Saints split with the Thunder during the regular season, losing the first and winning the second.

Aquinas beat St. James 26-24, 25-22 in a tournament Oct. 5. The Saints lost in that tournament but didn’t lose again until Friday, finishing the regular season with 10 straight wins.

Aquinas will have to face the winner of Pool A, Lansing, which went undefeated against three teams from the Wichita area to improve to 35-4 this season. Aquinas enters the semifinals 32-7. The Saints beat Lansing twice early this season.

Class 6A

Pool A

Blue Valley def. Blue Valley North 25-17, 25-18

Garden City def. Lawrence Free State 25-13, 25-20

Blue Valley def. Lawrence Free State 25-14, 25-16

Blue Valley North def. Garden City 25-15, 25-21

Blue Valley North def. Lawrence Free State 25-19, 25-17

Blue Valley def. Garden City 25-17, 31-29

Pool B

Derby def. Shawnee Mission Northwest 29-27, 25-23

Washburn Rural def. Gardner-Edgerton 27-25, 25-19

Gardner-Edgerton def. Derby 25-19, 23-25, 25-19

Washburn Rural def. Shawnee Mission Northwest 25-15, 25-17

Shawnee Mission Northwest def. Gardner-Edgerton 25-22, 22-25, 25-18

Washburn Rural def. Derby 25-21, 25-16

Class 5A

Pool A

Lansing def. Andover 25-22, 25-15

Goddard def. Maize South 25-21, 25-14

Lansing def. Goddard 25-12, 25-22

Maize South def. Andover 25-19, 23-25, 25-22

Goddard def. Andover 25-17, 22-25, 25-22

Lansing def. Maize South 25-15, 25-17

Pool B

St. James Academy def. Bishop Carroll 25-18, 25-14

St. Thomas Aquinas def. Spring Hill 25-19, 25-16

St. James Academy def. St. Thomas Aquinas 25-19, 25-12

Spring Hill def. Bishop Carroll 25-20, 25-21

St. Thomas Aquinas def. Bishop Carroll 25-16, 25-12

St. James Academy def. Spring Hill 25-16, 25-13

Class 4A

Pool A

Nickerson def. Holton 25-22, 21-25, 25-23

Andale def. Louisburg 25-10, 25-19

Louisburg def. Holton 26-24, 23-25, 25-20

Andale def. Nickerson 25-19, 26-28, 25-16

Louisburg def. Nickerson 19-25, 25-10, 25-20

Andale def. Holton 25-11, 25-13

Pool B

Circle def. Eudora 25-19, 25-22

Topeka Hayden def. Independence 25-16, 25-13

Topeka Hayden def. Circle 25-12, 25-19

Eudora def. Independence 25-20, 25-17

Topeka Hayden def. Eudora 25-18, 17-25, 25-12

Circle def. Independence 25-18, 22-25, 25-16

Class 3A

Pool A

Cheney def. Phillipsburg 21-25, 25-11, 27-25

Beloit def. Burlington 25-14, 25-15

Cheney def. Burlington 25-14, 25-13

Beloit def. Phillipsburg 25-12, 25-23

Phillipsburg def. Burlington 25-15, 25-21

Beloit def. Cheney 25-18, 25-23

Pool B

Royal Valley def. Silver Lake 25-23, 25-21

Nemaha Central def. Frontenac 31-29, 25-20

Royal Valley def. Nemaha Central 23-25, 25-17, 25-18

Silver Lake def. Frontenac 25-18, 22-15, 25-5

Silver Lake def. Nemaha Central 25-23, 25-20

Royal Valley def. Frontenac 25-16, 25-10

Class 2A

Pool A

Valley Heights def. Smith Center 25-13, 25-22

Garden Plain def. St. Mary’s Colgan 25-20, 15-25, 25-19

Garden Plain def. Valley Heights 25-22, 21-25, 25-20

St. Mary’s Colgan def. Smith Center 24-26, 25-19, 25-22

Garden Plain def. Smith Center 25-19, 25-13

Valley Heights def. St. Mary’s Colgan 17-25, 25-21, 25-23

Pool B

Wabaunsee def. Belle Plaine 25-20, 25-18

Spearville def. Jefferson County North 25-12, 25-23

Wabaunsee def. Jefferson County North 26-24, 25-19

Spearville def. Belle Plaine 25-20, 23-25, 25-20

Belle Plaine def. Jefferson County North 25-20, 25-20

Wabaunsee def. Spearville 29-27, 25-23

Class 1A

Pool A

Minneola def. Olpe 25-23, 25-23

Rural Vista def. Victoria 25-20, 25-17

Minneola def. Victoria 22-25, 25-23, 25-22

Rural Vista def. Olpe 25-18, 27-25

Olpe def. Victoria 25-15, 25-19

Rual Vista def. Minneola 25-17, 25-9

Pool B

Cunningham def. Clifton-Clyde 25-23, 29-27

Central Plains def. Chetopa 25-11, 25-13

Central Plains def. Cunningham 25-17, 25-23

Clifton-Clyde def. Chetopa 25-19, 25-11

Central Plains def. Clifton-Clyde 25-21, 25-12

Cunningham def. Chetopa 25-19, 25-16

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