Another trip to Salina for THS volleyball
Team’s last appearance was 2007
In the final minutes of the Tonganoxie-Eudora substate volleyball championship Saturday in Wamego, Tonganoxie High players were reminding each other to stay calm and focused.
But the reminders came from each other in not-so-calm tones.
The Chieftains had battled Eudora before this season, winning one match and losing two others heading into Saturday’s clash.
On Saturday, THS continued to gain momentum in that final set. It was then that teammates were yelling excitedly to each other that it was match point while simultaneously telling each other to keep that compusure.
A spike here and a block there, though, and Tonganoxie was punching its first ticket to state since 2007.
THS finished off Eudora and the Chieftain student section proceeded to storm the court to celebrate with the team.
Tonganoxie won the match, 26-24, 21-25, 25-21.
After all the hugs and tears of joy came and went, THS coach Tiffany Parker said she the team mapped out a plan defeat both Wamego and Eudora.
“We had a gameplan against them and our kids executed flawlessly,” Parker said. “We had a great match. They’re (Eudora) a great team.
Parker said she could see in her players’ body language that no matter what Wamego and then Eudora threw at her players, they would be resilient. That included lengthy delays, one against Wamego and another against Eudora, in which a referee conferred for several minutes with officials at the scorer’s table and then Parker about substitutions.
In the end, the distractions didn’t matter.
“We had this ‘let’s do this’ attitude,” Parker said.
Kaitlyn Hall, Halley Calovich and Kassi Gratton spoke Monday about the delays.
They said it worked as an extended timeout. Both times, the delays allowed the team to talk more strategy against their opponents.
Wamego won the first set against THS, 25-23, but Tonganoxie came back for 25-15 and 25-13 set victories and the match win.
Parker said a big lift for her team was the Tonganoxie crowd that made the roughly 90-minute drive for the tournament.
“I think we had the best crowd in the gym all day,” Parker said.
The team fed off that support.
If an opponent went on a run, Tonganoxie players had its crowd behind it — and each other.
“We just had to get that spark right back,” Calovich said.
The Tonganoxie Chieftains now direct their attention to Salina and the Class 4A Division I state tournament.
THS will have pool play Friday at the Bicentennial Center.
At 27-11, Tonganoxie will be the No. 4 seed. THS plays No. 5 Andale (28-13) at 9:30 a.m., No. 8 Wellington (19-17) at 11:30 a.m. and No. 1 McPherson (34-7) at 1:30 p.m.
On the other side of the bracket are No. 2 Louisburg (28-10), No. 3 Bishop Miege (27-11), No. 6 Chanute (26-14) and No. 7 Andover Central (22-19).
If the Chieftains can advance out of pool play, it will play Saturday.
State semifinals will start at 10 a.m. Saturday, with consolation and championship matches starting after the last semifinal match has concluded.
Hall said she and her teammates aren’t merely satisfied with the state berth. They plan to make some noise in Salina.
As for the program, it’s the school’s first appearance since 2007. The Chieftains placed third that year, its best finish in school history.
Parker joked that her son, Cole, was just 2 when the team last went to state. She and husband, Brandon have their second son Mack, who is about to turn 1.
So when will the next state appearance be?
“I’m not having another baby,” Parker joked.