Denied in the den
Lansing Lions end THS year again
A familiar seasonal recipe was written into the Tonganoxie volleyball record books this fall:
1.) Mix together a delicious winning season.
2.) Stir through the substate quarterfinals and semifinals.
3.) Drop a heartbreaker to Lansing in the substate finals.
For the third consecutive season, Tonganoxie whipped up a strong regular season. This year, the Chieftains entered substate with their best mark in recent years at 26-7.
After disposing of Piper in two games in the first round, No. 3 Tonganoxie kneaded through a tough semifinal match against No. 2 Eudora, which was 28-4 heading into the semifinals. The Chieftains held on against the Cardinals, 25-23, 21-25, 15-13, and advanced one more round.
The Chieftains would face championship-match nemesis Lansing. The Lions needed three games to defeat THS last season before advancing to the state tournament for their first state title. In Tiffany Parker's three seasons at Tonganoxie, she never had defeated LHS.
The trend continued Saturday.
In game one, Lansing never trailed. The Lions had a 4-1 lead early and then an 11-5 lead before the Chieftains stormed back with a 5-0 run. The one-point deficit was Tonganoxie's shortest. Lansing never ran away with the game one win, but two 3-0 runs slowly helped the Lions widen the margin and capture a 25-20 win.
¢ Lansing defeated Tonganoxie on Saturday, advancing to the state tournament for the third consecutive year after defeating the Chieftains in the finals.
¢ The sub-state runner-up, Tonganoxie completed its third consecutive winning season, all under Tiffany Parker after a 28-8 campaign, Parker's best. In three seasons, she has posted a 70-36 record.
In game two, Tonganoxie led three times -- 1-0 and 2-1 and 3-2. The game had five ties, but THS was even for the final time at 10. Lansing assembled an 8-2 run for an 18-12 lead. Tonganoxie then ran out of steam as the Lions won, 25-16, and clinched a shot at defending its state title.
For Tonganoxie, the final match provided a bad after-taste to a season that included two tournament championships and a victory against Baldwin, which also advanced to the state tournament Friday and Saturday in Salina.
"They played very well," Parker said about Lansing. "They have very strong seniors who kill the ball well and pass the ball well.
"They just played very well today."
Tonganoxie had a strong tournament also, especially during the Eudora match.
The Chieftains spread the court and caused the Cardinals fits. And the Chieftains' slide play, which uses a backward set to a side-stepping hitter, was motoring Tonganoxie toward the finals.
"As the season goes along, they got better at using it," Parker said.
On many occasions, senior Katie Jeannin assisted freshman Ali Pistora for the kill on the slide formation.
The Eudora-Tonganoxie match arguably was the best of the tournament. In game one, the teams had eight ties, but the Cardinals led once at 2-1. After every other tie, Tonganoxie answered the Eudora point.
Game two had five ties, but the Cardinals made a 7-0 run and evened the match with the 25-21 win.
In game three, with the scoring only to 15, the teams still managed eight ties. Tonganoxie never trailed by more than two and never led by more than three.
To Parker, that symbolized most successful season yet. Last year's squad went 24-12; this year's team finished at 28-8, thanks to seniors with plenty of "heart."
"That's a huge senior class to replace," Parker said. "We told them we may have teams that jump higher, may be more talented, but they won't have the heart they brought."
As three-time substate runners-up, Tonganoxie bid farewell Saturday to five seniors: Jeannin, Kelly Breuer, Rebekah Mages, Mollie McCaffrey and Michelle McWilliams.
It's a big class to fill, but the Chieftains will return with players such as Maddie Weller, Laura Jeannin, Addie Heim and Pistora.
"These Tonganoxie teams always seem to surprise me," Parker said.