Tonganoxie volleyball has tough tourney trip
Chieftains go 3-3, finish 5th at Rossville
THS AT ROSSVILLE
Clay Center W 25-16, 25-22
Holton L 25-9, 36-34
Ottawa L 14-25, 26-24, 26-24
Ottawa L 25-19, 18-25, 26-24
Towanda-Circle W 25-18, 23-25, 25-19
Salina-Sacred Heart W 25-21, 21-25, 25-20
Entering the Rossville Invitational Saturday with just one loss, the Tonganoxie High volleyball team hadn’t endured a great deal of adversity.
That changed in a hurry at the Chieftains’ first tournament of the season as THS lost one of its setters and three matches on its way to a 3-3 showing and a fifth-place finish.
After opening a long day with a win against Clay Center, Tonganoxie (8-4) was facing undefeated — and eventual tournament champion — Holton when junior setter Hannah Kemp twisted her right knee while going after the ball.
With that, Kemp’s day was done and the Chieftains had to play without her against their toughest competition of the season. It was in the midst of an intense 25-9, 36-34 loss to Holton that senior THS setter Sagan Scates knew her workload was about to double.
“I was nervous,” said Scates, who normally splits setting duties with Kemp.
However, Scates and her teammates didn’t want to use Kemp’s injury as an excuse. They fought back and forth with the Wildcats before finally getting eliminated in an extended second game.
“I think it would’ve been a lot easier to back off if we hadn’t already been in that neck-and-neck race,” Scates said of the Holton match. “It just gave us more of a reason to fight harder, because Hannah was hurt and we really needed to step up.”
Tonganoxie co-coaches Brandon and Tiffany Parker thought the players made the best of the situation at a tournament that lacked weak teams. Brandon said even though THS followed up the loss to Holton with consecutive setbacks against Ottawa — in pool play and, next, in bracket play — he thought those matches, which OHS won 14-25, 26-24, 26-24 and 25-19, 18-25, 26-24, could have gone either way and some Tonganoxie service errors were a difference between losing and winning.
“I thought we did pretty well considering adjusting on the fly,” he said.
Once Kemp was unavailable, senior Haley Smith said, it was up to the rest of the team to pick up the slack.
“Everyone had to fill a different role,” Smith said, “and especially Sagan had to do a lot.”
Normally, Kemp and Scates split time setting for Tonganoxie and either one could lead the team in assists in any given match. For example, Scates had 11 assists and Kemp finished with 10 in the Chieftains’ win against Clay Center. As the invitational went on, Scates did nearly all of the setting as others chipped in here and there. By Saturday’s end, Brooklyn Kerbaugh, Madee Walker, Katelyn Waldeier, Kailan Kuzmic, Jenny Whitledge, Megan Hummelgaard and Smith all had put up at least one assist.
Smith said Scates’ teammates could see her getting tired and attempted to help out where they could as the setter pushed through it.
“I thought she did a really awesome job,” Smith said.
Though the Chieftains responded in a positive fashion to Kemp’s injury, Parker said, that didn’t make losing twice to Ottawa — with two-point losses in three of the six games — any easier.
“They weren’t happy with the fact that both of those were that way, that we fell short,” he said.
Added Scates: “By the second time we lost to Ottawa, it was kind of disappointing, but we knew we were right there.”
Smith said the back-to-back losses made them mad, but the Chieftains kept playing and went on to beat Towanda-Circle and Salina-Sacred Heart in their final two matches of the tournament.
“We didn’t back down,” Smith said. “We still competed and came out with what we had.”
Parker agreed with that, and said playing with a different lineup in their first tournament against quality competition could have led to the players giving up.
“There were moments that they could’ve quit and didn’t,” he said.
Even though they came up short against Holton and Ottawa, Scates said, the THS coaches told the players they could win those types of matches in the future.
“I was really proud of the way we played all day,” Scates said, “because we were competitive.”
Had the team maintained an assertive level of play, which it showed in its three wins, Parker said Tonganoxie could have won its close matches with Ottawa.
“Probably the only differences would be we had a few more tentative moments in our losses,” he said.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Chieftains play at Mill Valley, in Shawnee. After a 5 p.m. home quadrangular on Thursday, with Jeff West, Pleasant Ridge and Immaculata, THS plays host to the Tonganoxie Invitational beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.