Sorrentino: Consolation match anything but meaningless
Salina I have absolutely no problem admitting this: I used to think consolation games were pointless. After all, it's the so-called loser's bracket, right? The fans don't care anymore and the players don't play like they're competing for a championship.
After last weekend's Class 4A state tournament at the Salina Bicentennial Center, the Tonganoxie High volleyball team put on a show that nullified any previous skepticism I had about consolation games.
Truth be told, the consolation championship match between Tonganoxie and Andover was far from pointless. It was actually the biggest match in the history of Tonganoxie High volleyball.
Before this year, Tonganoxie had three previous state volleyball trips. The highest the Chieftains ever placed was fourth.
Now THS has four state volleyball trips. It won the consolation championship match and took third. The victory represented the Chieftains' most successful finish in school history.
"This wasn't necessarily a consolation," THS co-coach Brandon Parker said. "It was, in a sense, another championship for them."
And after they won, the Chieftains could lay claim to being the best 4A public school in the entire state of Kansas. Topeka-Hayden and St. James Academy (Lenexa), two private schools, played in the championship match.
After losing to the eventual state champion Hayden, Tonganoxie players were understandably disappointed.
"When we knew we were going to Salina, their plan was to win a state championship," Parker said.
Rightfully so. The seven other teams planned to win one as well. The most impressive part was how Tonganoxie bounced back after losing, though.
Tonganoxie won the next match after both its losses from the weekend. THS lost to St. James on the first day in pool play. Tonganoxie then crushed Colby, 25-16 and 25-14, and defeated Clearwater, 25-23 and 25-21, to finish pool play with a 2-1 record.
After losing to Hayden on the second day, the championship run ended. But the players didn't mope around. They weren't lazy in their next match.
There was history to be made in the consolation championship.
In the first game after the loss, Tonganoxie dominated Andover, 25-14. The Chieftains held on for a 25-22 victory in the second game.
So what was the players' motivation?
"We talked to each other," senior Sami Franiuk said, referring to a discussion players had before the consolation championship match. "It's the last game of our senior year. We have to go out there and take it to them. We just had a blast."
The Chieftains left Salina one of only two teams in the state that ended its season on a winning note.
"For the seniors, they know their last volleyball match at Tonganoxie was a win," Parker said of the eight seniors. "Not too many people can say that. It was important to play that match, so they could finish what they started; winning, competing and beating all the odds."
Tonganoxie's third-place finish was impressive, considering it was the lowest seed, at No. 8, in the tournament.
Turns out that consolation championship wasn't so pointless after all.
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 the game story of the Chieftains taking third at state, click here.
For a link to Tonganoxie advancing to the semifinals, click here.