Go ahead and jump
Second place dejecting for THS players
The Tonganoxie and Olathe East volleyball teams stood on opposite sides of the net after their championship match at Saturday's Tonganoxie Invitational.
Brandon Parker, THS co-coach and athletics director, made the formal announcement over the loud speaker: "Ladies and gentlemen, your 2007 Tonganoxie Invitational champions...the Olathe East Hawks."
The Chieftains recognized the Hawks and clapped for them, but it was evident that deep down, they expected to be in the Hawks' shoes.
"It wasn't what we were going for," senior Hannah Herrstrom said of the second-place finish. "Olathe East was a good team with a lot of big girls. They just brought it."
Overall, Tonganoxie had a nice tournament showing. THS won three pool play matches and earned a bye in the first round of tournament play. Tonganoxie made quick work of Great Bend, 25-15, 25-15, in the second round of tournament play.
The Chieftains went 4-1 and improved their record to 12-5 on the season. However, THS players left their home gymnasium Saturday in a somber state with the Olathe East match on their minds. The players set the bar high this year. After all, the Chieftains won their home invitational last season.
"Obviously, they wanted to win on their home court," Parker said. "But we played a lot better than we did last weekend. So we're going to build again and if that means that we have to take second place at the Tonganoxie Invitational, then so be it. We hope every week we continue to get better for when we really need to be great."
In pool play, Tonganoxie defeated Gardner-Edgerton (25-13, 25-22), Perry-Lecompton (25-11, 25-15) and Ottawa (25-18, 25-17).
Tonganoxie's dominating victory against Class 5A Great Bend was particularly impressive, considering Great Bend took out Eudora. The Cardinals were the defending Class 4A state champions and the No. 1 Class 4A team in the state to start the season, according to the Kansas Volleyball Association rankings.
The Chieftains found the seams in the Panthers defense for the majority of the match.
Senior Tracie Hileman ended the match in emphatic fashion. Hileman, who was recognized on the all-tournament team, leaped so high from the left side that her head was considerably higher than the net. Hileman's combination of grace and power made the final THS point memorable. She spiked the ball so hard that you could hear two consecutive smack sounds: The first was Hileman's forceful spike. The second was the sound of the ball bouncing off a Great Bend player into the scorer's table.
Another bright spot for THS was the hustle of Herrstrom, who covered a large area from her defensive specialist position in the back row. Herrstrom was named the tournament's best defensive player.
"I just go for every ball," Herrstrom said. "I don't really think about it. It's just a rhythm. I'm known to be the energetic one. My energy just rubs off on everyone else and pumps them up."
The Chieftains seemed to have all the momentum they needed before facing Olathe East. For some reason, though, open spots on the floor disappeared. Hileman and Sami Franiuk, who also was named to the all-tournament team, had many of their spike attempts blocked.
"We didn't do as good a job passing and hitting the ball to our hitters in a hittable area," Parker said. "It all starts with the pass, the set, then the attack. It just didn't flow as well in that last match as it did earlier. We have to give our hitters a chance to hit."
The Hawks blew the second game open with an 8-0 run, which gave them a 19-8 lead. Tonganoxie went on a 5-0 run late in the game, but still trailed, 23-15. Olathe East sealed the championship with two more points.
"The tournament we really care about is in a month," Herrstrom said of the state tournament in Salina. "That's the big one that we want to win -- and we're going to win."