Chieftains follow up ‘L’ with victory over MVHS
On the brink of being swept at its home triangular with Lansing and Mill Valley on Tuesday, the Tonganoxie High volleyball team avoided a hangover after losing to the Lions and earned a split.
The Chieftains knocked off the Jaguars, 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, after falling to LHS, 25-22, 25-21.
Losing to Lansing, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A by the Kansas Volleyball Association, was an issue because of the way the match played out. Tonganoxie was up, 17-5, early in the first game before LHS countered with a dominating, 20-5 run.
“We were disappointed with the Lansing match and the way we didn’t compete and finish off,” co-coach Brandon Parker said, noting it was a match he and co-coach Tiffany Parker thought the Chieftains should have won.
The disappointment lingered early on against MVHS, too. After taking a 9-6 lead in the first game, the Jags went on an 11-0 run en route to taking the early advantage in the match. The Chieftains’ frustration showed on their faces and going 0-2 on the night looked like a reality.
But something changed, allowing THS (13-7) to recover. And Brandon Parker said it was nothing implemented by the coaches.
“We kind of relied on the girls. They’ve got to find their own energy,” he said. “The source can’t be the coaches all the time, because that doesn’t work — it’s like a sugar rush, it’s real quick and then it’s gone.”
Parker said the players had to find their own way — and they did. Frustrated as they were, they grinded until they found a rhythm that was nonexistent earlier in the match.
Even though Tonganoxie dropped the first game with Mill Valley, that’s when the players emerged from the doldrums. On the longest rally of the night, sophomore Jenny Whitledge won the point for THS by finding a hole in the Jags’ defense and throwing down a kill that cut what was once an eight-point deficit to four. Whitledge said she and her teammates just got back to executing.
“We had a little bit of a struggle but I think everyone wanted it so bad that the determination came through everyone,” she said.
That kind of approach held true in the next two games, as the Chieftains never trailed. The defense of Brooklyn Kerbaugh at the net and Megan Hummelgaard in the back row helped set the table for two straight wins.
Although neither victory against MVHS was easy — both games were tied at 20 — Tonganoxie finished off a quality 5A opponent. Kills by Whitledge, Kailan Kuzmich and Molly O’Hagan helped tie the match, 1-1.
Tonganoxie then jumped out to an early 6-1 advantage in the deciding game as Danielle Miller served up a pair of aces. When Mill Valley crept back into the match, the Chieftains maintained breathing room thanks to Hannah Kemp setting up O’Hagan for kills on three straight points for THS. Whitledge helped slam the door on the road team with kills on two of the final three points.
It was important, Whitledge said, for the Chieftains to not allow the Lansing result to beat them again the next time on the floor, especially after that very scenario happened three days before at the Tonganoxie Invitational.
“After our locker room talk between games, it really helped us to strive to want to win that next game and move on,” Whitledge said.
Following a stretch of 11 matches in the past six days, THS doesn’t play again until 4:30 p.m. Monday at Kansas City-Washington’s triangular, with Sumner Academy.