Chieftain volleyball upends No. 2 Wamego
Its record is nothing special right now, but the Tonganoxie High volleyball team made noticeable strides at Saturday's Rossville Invitational.
Before Tuesday's matches at Perry-Lecompton, the Chieftains stood at 5-4.
Although THS lost in the first round of bracket play, that three-game loss was to one of the top Class 4A teams in the state -- Towanda-Circle. Circle won, 22-25, 25-16, 25-19.
Earlier in the day, Tonganoxie lost to the top-ranked team in 4A in Holton, 25-12, 25-17. The Chieftains then knocked off Wamego, 26-24, 11-25, 26-24.
Tonganoxie also defeated Turner in two games and finished the tournament with a 2-2 record.
Not bad for a tournament that featured some of the best teams in the state in 4A and 3A.
Tonganoxie came out of pool play with the third seed out of four teams despite its win against Wamego. WHS upended Holton after losing to Tonganoxie, which forced Tonganoxie to the No. 3 seed.
If THS would have earned the No. 2 seed, they would have played Emporia instead of Circle.
"It actually wound up being better for us because that way we could play Circle, and they're a better team than Emporia," co-coach Brandon Parker said. "It gave us another quality opponent to learn from."
And that's the key, early this season, Tonganoxie coaches say. With a young and athletic team, they want their players to gain experience with tougher tournaments that should prepare the team for postseason play.
"It's a good tournament for us to be in just because there's so much competition that our young kids learn how to play with and even defeat those teams," Parker said. "It does a lot more for us rather than beating teams we should beat -- just to say we took first place."
Tonganoxie's Ali Pistora was named to the all-tournament team. Pistora, however, was nursing an injured ankle after practice Monday. Kalie Hileman also is tending to an ankle injury, which she sustained at Saturday's tournament. Other team members, meanwhile, are working to get through illnesses.
Despite her team not being at full strength this week, co-coach Tiffany Parker said she was thrilled with Saturday's effort in Rossville.
"It seems like every match we play we get better," Parker said. "The rate at which we're getting better is very encouraging."
The Wamego match impressed Parker the most. She said her team kept its poise after winning a close first game and then coming back and winning a close third game after a big loss in Game 2.
Brandon Parker concurred with his wife and co-coach about how many strides the young team is making.
"It's not that we're content with 2-2, but as far as where we are as learning and jumping into a tournament this early in a season, we're happy there was progress," Parker said.
Tonganoxie will look to take more steps forward with its own invitational Saturday in the high school and junior high gymnasiums.
Teams such as Manhattan, Olathe East, Great Bend, Gardner-Edgerton and Piper will be at the tournament.
Eudora, which knocked off a senior-heavy Tonganoxie team last year in the substate finals, will be at the tournament as well.
Brandon Parker, however, said this team shouldn't be concerned about playing Eudora again.
"We just need to continue to try to play better," he said. "It's too early and we're too young to focus on our opponent.
"Usually we have to focus on beating our biggest opponent and that's ourselves. So we're going to focus on that opponent."
The tournament will start at 8 a.m.