Rewriting the record books
Third-place state finish best in Tonganoxie school history
Salina Tonganoxie High may not have won the Kansas Class 4A state volleyball tournament Saturday, but this much is certain: This year's Chieftains were the most successful volleyball team in school history.
After defeating Andover, 25-14 and 25-22, Tonganoxie took third place in the tourney at the Salina Bicentennial Center. The highest THS had ever finished in the state tournament was fourth.
Earlier Saturday, Tonganoxie lost in the semifinals to the eventual state champion, Topeka-Hayden, 25-18 and 25-22.
THS didn't look like it wanted the day to end, though, when it faced Andover in its final match of the season in the consolation championship.
Senior Sami Franiuk gave Andover nightmares with her serving. Franiuk had three straight service aces in the first game and helped Tonganoxie to a 19-5 lead.
When Franiuk pounded her third service ace, the ball made contact with the top of the net and barely crept over to Andover's side. AHS didn't have many players close to the net in preparation for Franiuk's jumping spin serve. Franiuk's reaction suggested she didn't plan on the ball rolling on top of the net, but she certainly approved of the fortunate result.
"We offered up the facts," Tonganoxie co-coach Brandon Parker said about his team staying energized for the consolation championship. "They could be the highest finisher in Tonganoxie history, finish with a win and finish with a trophy. After so many years of playing and all they've been through, it's a disservice if they don't finish on a great note."
Tonganoxie (32-13) will graduate eight seniors -- Franiuk, Tracie Hileman, Liz Baska, Shannon Carlin, Hannah Herrstrom, Lindsey Himpel, Roxi Grizzle and Jessie Whitledge. In fact, the only player with regular playing time on this year's team who will return next year is junior Chrissy Jeannin.
"I think we should be able to be satisfied with third," Franiuk said. "Yeah, we wanted first -- every team that came in here wanted first -- but we ended on a win. We came in here as an eight seed and finished third. Obviously, they messed something up."
Tonganoxie's early troubles Saturday with Hayden amounted near the net. Hayden orchestrated a perfect plan to contain Tonganoxie outside hitters Franiuk and Hileman. It seemed there was an impenetrable wall near the net preventing Tonganoxie from setting up its power strikers.
"It wasn't our best passing match," Tonganoxie co-coach Tiffany Parker added. "It's hard to get your hitters involved when you don't pass really well. They served very well at us. They're a big, physical team."
It also didn't hurt that Hayden had a fearsome outside hitter on Corrinne Stringer, who will play college volleyball next year at the University of Georgia.
Hayden seemed to seal the match early in the second game when it led, 24-17. Tonganoxie wouldn't go down quietly. The Chieftains scored five straight points to cut the lead to 24-22. It proved to be too much ground to make up, and the match ended when the Chieftains couldn't chase down a loose ball.
Tonganoxie can still leave Salina feeling accomplished. For the past six years, the Chieftains have lost in the sub-state championship finals. They hadn't made a state appearance in 14 years.
"Making the trip out here to Salina is probably the most fun I've ever had," Franiuk said. "It's something I'm going to remember forever because I finally made it to state."
This year's Chieftains made it known that they've set the bar high for future classes.
"Someone better come in here and take first," Franiuk said.
Three Chieftains named to all-state team
Tonganoxie seniors Franiuk, Hileman and Herrstrom were named to the 2007 Kansas Class 4A state tournament team. The Kansas Volleyball Association selected 12 players to the team.
More THS volleyball Web content from The Mirror:
To read the Chieftain volleyball blog, updated all weekend from the Salina Bicentennial Center, click here.
For a link to Tonganoxie advancing to the semifinals, click here.
For sports editor Eric Sorrentino's latest column on the Tonganoxie volleyball team, click here.