Lansing blocks THS state hopes
Phil Lobb Gymnasium was anything but a cozy home court late Saturday afternoon.
With No. 2 Tonganoxie set to face top-seeded Lansing, the Lions brought a huge crowd complete with rowdy high school fans dressed in animal costumes.
The Chieftains, meanwhile, had to play the part of visitor to Lansing, which was the higher-seeded home team.
Still, Tonganoxie put the Lions on the ropes, forcing a third game before losing the decisive contest, 15-6.
For Lansing, it was the Lions' third straight berth for the state tournament. For Tonganoxie, it was another substate championship game loss to the Lions.
"We just gave it all we had and it wasn't enough," a depleted Karley Bennett said after the loss.
The senior had more digs than a seasoned gopher Saturday, playing an instrumental part in the game two win against the Lions. When she wasn't digging she was serving. After Lansing dominated game one 15-6, Tonganoxie bolted to a 4-0 lead in game two.
After Lansing cut the lead to 4-3, Bennett served up an ace, putting the Chieftains up 5-3. She had two more points on that series, pushing the lead to 7-3. Lansing got as close as 10-7, but a late surge helped the Chieftains to a 15-8 victory.
The Chieftains definitely had the momentum, but a 5-0 start in game three for the Lions deflated Tonganoxie. THS got as close five again at 11-6, but Lansing reeled off four points. The win punched Lansing's ticket for a trip down Lansing's ticket for a trip down Interstate 70 to the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
"We talked beforehand about the fact that we had absolutely nothing to lose and they had everything to lose," THS coach Tiffany Parker said. "Other teams had been tender-footed against them, but we had to be aggressive."
Game two epitomized Parker's plan, and Tonganoxie seemed to keep 6-3 standout Natalie Uhart in check for most of the match.
"I think we honestly made them not able to use her," Parker said.
Tonganoxie usually kept Lansing from getting a set to Uhart, but that left the door open for Kelli Craig. The outside hitter had 10 kills in the match.
Now 34-1, Lansing is again the top seed, this time at state. The Lions will play No. 8 Iola (22-11) at 8:30 a.m. Friday. At 10:30 a.m., LHS will play No. 5 Concordia (31-4) before playing No. 4 Hayden (35-4) at 12:30 p.m.
If Lansing is one of the top two teams out of their pool, the Lions will advance to tournament play Saturday.
Tonganoxie, meanwhile, ended its season at 25-12, finishing as substate runner-up to Lansing for the second year in a row. The Chieftains improved on last year's 18-16 mark.
"I'm not satisfied we couldn't finish it," Bennett said.
The loss came after Tonganoxie defeated No. 7 Basehor-Linwood in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Bishop Ward in the semifinals.
Overall, Parker, who is now 43-27 in two seasons at THS, said it was tough to pinpoint anyone who alone had a standout tournament.
"It's hard to single a person out," Parker said. "They all had big plays at some point during the day."
In addition to Bennett, four seniors played their final matches at THS: Christie Menhusen, Laura Samuels, Vanessa Wardy and Jennifer Reischman.
Those players, Parker said, have been instrumental in taking Tonganoxie from 9-25 two years ago to Tonganoxie's second consecutive winning season.
"Those are big shoes to fill, but my God, I don't know if they get much bigger than that," she said.
THS, 15-15, BLHS 6-12
Tonganoxie finished off the Basehor-Linwood Bobcats in two games, 15-6, 15-12, after getting off to what Parker called a rocky start for her Chieftains.
"Against Basehor, we were playing kind of tight," Parker said.
The Chieftains held the Bobcats off in the second game. Tonganoxie advanced to the semifinals, sending BLHS home for the season. The No. 7 Bobcats finished with a 9-23 record.
THS 15-13-15, BW 7-13-11
The expected showdown was the tightest match of the tournament. THS looked to be in command after game one despite a stretch of four side outs.
The teams combined for 11 side outs, but after leading 7-5, THS went on a 6-0 run and held on for a 15-7 win.
In game two, the Ward came back for a 15-13 win before THS escaped with a tight 15-11 win in the final game of the match. The Cyclones finished the season 23-13.