Eudora supreme against Tonganoxie in 4A substate tournament
Amie Riddle broke out her best Diana Ross voice before Saturday's Class 4A substate volleyball tournament in Tonganoxie.
In the locker room, Riddle started singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
Then Kalie Hileman chimed in, she said, before the rest of the team sang in unison to the song that both The Tempations and The Supremes recorded.
The Chieftains' locker room usually doesn't resemble backstage at The Apollo, but for some reason, team members tested their vocal cords. As the team left the locker room single-file, the song continued.
The song seemed fitting for this year's Tonganoxie team. The program, heading into Saturday's substate, hadn't posted a losing season under coaches Tiffany and Brandon Parker, who started their fifth season at THS this fall. But this season, with a young but talented squad, the Chieftains were on top of the mountain one minute and in the deepest valley the next. Tonganoxie entered substate with a 14-17 record and No. 6 seed after finishing the regular season with a seven-game losing streak.
Despite all that, the Chieftains nearly conquered Mount Eudora.
After upsetting No. 3 Bishop Ward and handling No. 7 Basehor-Linwood, the Chieftains met No. 1 Eudora in the substate finals.
It was a rematch of last year's substate title match in which the No. 2 Cardinals defeated the No. 1 Chieftains in three games in Eudora.
This season, it was No. 1 Eudora, which entered the tournament with a 35-4 record, playing on Tonganoxie's home court.
The Chieftains made the home crowd proud.
Tonganoxie held its ground in game 1. The game had nine ties and six lead changes. The Chieftains opened the game with a 2-0 lead, but the Cardinals eventually took the lead and held a 13-8 lead at one point.
But Tonganoxie wouldn't go away. THS went on a 5-0 run and had the lead late at 20-19.
Eudora, though, finished strong and won the first game, 25-22.
One game away from elimination, the Chieftains responded.
THS led by as many as eight when a Tonganoxie point put the Chieftains up 16-8. Tonganoxie had a 17-10 lead, but Eudora showed its desire for a second straight trip to the state tourney. The Cardinals went on an 8-1 run. The game was tied at 18, 19 and 20, but Eudora again pulled away late.
The Cardinals won game 2, 25-21, and sent the Chieftains home as substate runner-up for the fifth consecutive year. THS ended its season at 16-18, the first losing season at Tonganoxie for the Parkers.
Despite the setbacks this season, Hileman, the team's lone senior, was proud of how her team finished.
"This is the best our team has played this year," Hileman said. "I can say that."
Hileman said the secret Saturday was that the Chieftains worked as a team, something that wasn't always visible this season.
"The teamwork just brought us all together," Hileman said. "As far as it could. Probably farther than anybody else thought we would."
Tonganoxie started the tournament playing a team that had defeated them earlier in Kaw Valley League play. The Chieftains, though, were in control at substate. THS won, 25-18, 25-22, on Saturday and then defeated Basehor-Linwood, 25-15, 25-23, in the semifinals.
Co-coach Tiffany Parker said substate was Tonganoxie's best performance of the year.
"Today we definitely put it together for three straight matches," Parker said.
Parker praised her team's effort -- two players in particular.
"Everybody played well, but we had two kids really turn the corner in today's matches," Parker said.
"Unfortunately, one of them was Kalie Hileman," Parker said.
It was unfortunate because Hileman was a senior. On Saturday, in her last day in a Tonganoxie uniform, Hileman was on fire, whether it be with a strong serve, a nice hit or a placed ball over the net to a vacant corner of the opponents' court.
Shannon Carlin was Parker's other top performer.
"She just came out and played aggressively," Parker said. "We've been on her to do that for a long time.
"And she did it."
With the victory against Tonganoxie, Eudora improved to 38-4 and earned a No. 2 seed at the 4A state tournament, which will be played Friday and Saturday in Salina's Bicentennial Center.
Girard, at 31-2, is the No. 1 seed, while Santa Fe Trail, a Kaw Valley League team, is the No. 8 seed at 26-11.
As for Tonganoxie, the Chieftains again were one match away from state.
But minutes after Tonganoxie fell to Eudora for the second straight season, players and coaches already were talking about 2006.
"Everybody says, 'you should be good, you should be good,'" Parker said. "But we've got to prove it."
Hileman, who won't be back to help the Chieftains make another run at state, thought Tonganoxie would do just that.
"I think they're going to state," Parker said. "They have it in their heads they're going."
That definitely would give the Chieftains something to sing about.
with low turnout
Tonganoxie once again made an exciting run in its Class 4A substate volleyball tournament.
For the fifth straight year, the Chieftains reached the substate finals, only to lose in the championship match and watch another team celebrate a state berth.
For the second time during that span, THS was the host for the substate tournament.
This time, though, THS co-coach Brandon Parker would have liked more fan support.
"We obviously were very appreciative of the people who showed up -- the parents, a few community members and staff members and about the 10 students who showed up," Parker said.
The coach was discouraged because top-seeded Eudora brought a large fan base -- including several students -- to Tonganoxie for the tournament. In the finals, the Eudora faithful outnumbered Tonganoxie fans.
Last year, Tonganoxie was the top seed and played at Eudora in front of a hostile home crowd.
Last season, the Chieftains finished the year at 30-8. This year, THS went 16-18.
"Well, I don't know for a fact, but I'll venture to say we had just as many, if not more last year at Eudora," Parker said, referring to THS fans.
Being named a substate site, Parker said, usually is good for a school.
"We host these things to give our kids a home-court advantage," Parker said. "And the people who were there were very supportive, but we were outnumbered compared to the Eudora fans."
Despite being the No. 6 seed, Tonganoxie still reached the championship match after wins against Bishop Ward and Basehor-Linwood.
"Give our kids credit," Parker said. "They played hard, no matter what, and probably surprised some people by what they were capable of."
Parker noted that the volleyball team attended other team's events. And, he said, the cross country teams would have been at the tournament had they not been competing at regionals in Hiawatha.