SALINA SEQUEL: Tonganoxie volleyball handles BLHS, clinches second straight state appearance
Atchison From the day the Tonganoxie volleyball team began practice, coach Tiffany Parker had a simple message for her team.
“Some teams plateau early, and we were not going to allow ourselves to do that,” Parker said. “Our seniors really set the tone everyday.”
Not only did the Chieftains avoid plateauing, they played their best volleyball of the season at the class 4A DI Sub-State tournament, which resulted in celebrating a sub-state championship
STATE TOURNAMENT PAIRINGS
No. 1: Abilene, 36-3
No. 8: Bishop Miege, 11-28
No. 4: Paola, 25-12
No. 5: Tonganoxie, 23-13
3:30 p.m. (1) Abilene (1) vs. (8) Bishop Miege
4:30 p.m. (4) Paola vs. (5) Tonganoxie
5:30 p.m. (1) Abilene vs. (5) Tonganoxie
6:30 p.m. (4) Paola vs. (8) Bishop Miege
7:30 p.m. (5) Tonganoxie vs. (8) Bishop Miege
8:30 p.m. (1) Abilene vs. (4) Paola
No. 2: Rose Hill, 34-6
No. 7: McPherson, 25-16
No. 3: Independence, 31-8
No. 6: Andover Central, 26-15
3:30 p.m. (2) Rose Hill vs. (7) McPherson
4:30 p.m. (3) Independence vs. (6) Andover Central
5:30 p.m. (2) Rose Hill vs. (6) Andover Central
6:30 p.m. (3) Independence vs. (7) McPherson
7:30 p.m. (6) Andover Central vs. (7) McPherson
8:30 p.m. (2) Rose Hill vs. (3) Independence
Top two teams in each pool advance to Saturday.
2 p.m. Semifinals begin.
Championship and consolation matches start 15 minutes after last semifinal match concludes.
and a state birth for the second consecutive season.
“All the adrenaline just poured out of all of us on to the court,” junior Lauren Wilson said. “Throughout the year when we lost, we always said ‘that’s alright, shake it off. 10/22 (October 22) is coming up.’ And we managed to bring our “A” game.’”
Tonganoxie (23-13) needed its “A” game in both matches on Saturday afternoon. It beat Basehor-Linwood 25-20, 25-19 in the championship and Piper 30-28, 25-17 in the first round.
After a back-and-forth first set against Piper, Tonganoxie fought off five set points before finally winning the first set.
On one of those set points — down 27-26 — senior Taylor Lee was able to get to a short serve after it hit the net. Not only did Lee save the set, she also hit a shot that wasn’t returned by Piper.
Lee was second on the team with 15 kills in the tournament.
“Taylor played really well,” Parker said. “She was very confident today."
In the final against Basehor Linwood, Tonganoxie dug itself an early 10-3 hole with errors and spotty defense before Parker called a timeout.
“I told them ‘start over. You’re still breathing, and you’re not hurt. You can still play this game,’” Parker said. “We knew it was going to be a game of waves. I felt like we were pressing.”
With Tonganoxie down 18-14, Willson’s three consecutive spikes gave her team life, and sparked an 11-2 run to end the set. She had a team-high 16 kills in the tournament.
“I give it up to my team,” Willson said. “I couldn’t do it without them. We’re all in this together.”
Basehor-Linwood led for a majority of the second set, too. But once two consecutive spikes by Wilson gave Tonganoxie an 18-16 lead, the Chieftain never looked back.
Parker said her team’s mental outlook was different on Saturday than it was earlier in the season, which was crucial to the Chieftains overcoming deficits in three of the four sets they won.
“We’ve been talking about having composure, and I really feel that helped us a lot,” Parker said. “Our mental attack was a lot better today than it had been previously in the season.”
Parker also praised the play of senior Mykah Wingerter, who had 10 kills, and Nicole Tallent, who had eight kills against the opposing teams tallest blockers. But Parker said none of that would be possible without senior Emily Hummelgaard.
“Emily flies under the radar because she does her job so well,” Parker said. “She’s in the right position all the time. If she doesn’t do her job, we’re done.”
Tonganoxie has a few days to prepare before it travels to the state tournamen, which starts Friday at the Salina Bicentennial Center. The top two teams in each pool advance to Saturday.
“I’m blessed as a coach, because we have great kids,” Parker said. “This group has worked together amazingly all season.”