Chieftains’ sub-state run comes up just short
THS falls to Basehor-Linwood in finals
When sub-state volleyball brackets were released last week, it quickly became apparent Tonganoxie High would have to fight an uphill battle if it wanted a spot in the state tournament. The Chieftains climbed and climbed from the very beginning, but when it was all said and done, they couldn’t quite reach the pinnacle.
THS (18-18) defeated a pair of higher-seeded teams to reach the sub-state championship game, but fell short against Basehor-Linwood on Saturday at its own gym.
Oddly enough, fifth-seeded Tonganoxie’s only match as the higher-seeded team came in the finals against No. 6 Basehor-Linwood. The Bobcats upset No. 3 De Soto in the first round, then defeated No. 7 Bonner Springs in the semifinals.
As was the case throughout the tournament, seeding didn’t seem to affect the final match of the day. Basehor-Linwood sprinted out to an 11-5 lead in the first set, forcing THS to play catch-up the rest of the way. The Chieftains played even the rest of the way, but the Bobcats held on to win the set, 25-18. Coach Tiffany Parker’s squad battled its way to an 18-17 lead in the second set, but Basehor-Linwood responded with a match-ending, 8-1 run to punch its ticket to the Class 4A state tournament.
“It’s been about three years since we’ve even been in the sub-state finals,” Parker said. “You take for granted all those years that we were the second-place team. The past few years, we didn’t even have an opportunity for a chance to go to state. I think it’s huge for our underclassmen that we got into the finals this year.”
In the final match of her career, senior Jenny Whitledge led the team with five kills and tied for the lead with 11 digs. Fellow senior Madee Walker added three kills and a service ace.
The Chieftains opened tournament play against No. 4 Bishop Ward — a team they defeated twice in the regular season. The Cyclones hung around early, but THS pulled away to win in straight sets, 25-19, 25-17. Senior Jenny Whitledge led the way with nine kills and junior Marissa Martin added 11 digs.
The first-round win set up a semifinal meeting with the tournament’s top seed in Eudora. The Cardinals swept the Chieftains in their only regular season meeting, but Tonganoxie got the last laugh in the rematch. Both teams struggled to gain control for the duration of the match, but THS avoided any costly mistakes and swept Eudora, 25-19, 25-21, to guarantee itself in the finals.
Senior Madee Walker had a team-high seven kills and Martin again paced the Chieftains with 13 digs. Whitledge enjoyed a solid all-around performance with six kills and 10 digs.
“The way this sub-state was, it didn’t matter who came next because we were all very even,” Parker said. “Just because they had the label of the No. 1 seed, that really didn’t factor into how we approached the match. I scouted them a lot and kind of knew what to expect from them, and I think our kids really bought into the game plan. They followed through with what was asked of them and had confidence in themselves.”
Following the conclusion of the tournament, Parker emphasized the significance of returning to the sub-state finals, especially with so many underclassmen returning next year. She also praised Whitledge and Walker for their efforts throughout the season.
“We need to be hungry for a state trip next year, and that needs to carry over into their other sports,” she said. “It’s big losing Jenny and Madee, but we’re going to find some hungry people to fill their shoes.”
THS will return seven players with varsity experience in 2013.