The feeling was one Jessica Plake and her Bishop Miege teammates will never forget.
After winning four straight Kansas Class 5A volleyball titles from 2008-11, the Stags saw their run end prematurely in 2012. A three-game loss to Shawnee Heights in the semifinals at last year’s state tournament was, simply put, devastating.
“We just used that as so much motivation,” Plake said. “We remembered all that we had gone through.”
This season, Miege went through an atypical regular season, losing 10 matches in the regular season. But the Stags, competing in a new classification, found a late-season fire and rode it to the Class 4A Division I championship at the Bicentennial Center. After rolling through its pool on Friday, Miege put the wraps on a state-best 22nd title Saturday with a hard-fought 25-16, 18-25, 25-20 victory over Louisburg in the championship match.
The victory capped a 34-10 season for the Stags, who won their first 4A state title since 1977 — the other 20 titles coming at the 5A level.
“Every team is different,” said Miege coach Gwenn Pike, who’s been in charge for 19 of the 22 title seasons. “We’ve had to fight for everything we’ve gotten this year. We’ve played some really tough competition, but in the long run it paid off because under pressure, even though it wasn’t our best game, we did the things we needed to do to make it happen and get the win.”
Miege certainly found itself in a fight with Louisburg in the finals after handling the Wildcats 25-14, 25-21 in Friday’s pool play. After using a 9-1 run to break free from a narrow 13-12 lead in the first match, the Stags saw Louisburg fire back in the second game.
Despite missing their top hitter — junior Sydney Dixon, who sprained her ankle two points into the semifinal win over Chanute — the Wildcats saw their bigs come up, well, big. Six-footers Madison Turner and Madline DeShazer combined for seven kills and eight blocks in the second game with Turner accounting for three of the final four points in a 25-18 win.
Louisburg got out fast in the third game, too, leading 6-3 on three straight hitting errors by the Stags. It was still a 12-9 Wildcats lead before Miege finally found a groove.
Kills from Plake, Nichole Purcell and Carson Miller sparked a 6-1 that put Miege up for good. Plake added four more kills and freshman Allie Strong finished off the win with a kill.
“We just realized what we had to do,” said Plake, who led the Stags with 15 kills and three aces. “We just executed on everything.”
Miege had rolled into the title match with a 25-20, 25-10 rout of Rose Hill, while Louisburg outlasted Chanute 25-22, 18-25, 25-22. DeShazer made two big plays at the net late, including the game-winner, as Louisburg scored the final three points.
Bidding for the first state title in program history, Louisburg couldn’t quite hold off the Stags without Dixon and finished the season 40-4.
“The team played well together and bonded after Sydney got hurt,” Wildcat coach Jessica Smith said. “Sydney’s been a go-to hitter all season and been a spark for us well. I thought the girls really rallied around her.”