VOLLEYBALL: Monday, Oct. 26, 2020
The late-season surge for the Garden City High School Lady Buffaloes volleyball team continued on Saturday, Oct. 24, in the Class 6A sub-state tournament in Dodge City.
The Lady Buffs claimed the sub-state title for the sixth consecutive season with wins over rival Dodge City (25-23, 25-13) and then knocked off No. 1 seeded Hutchinson in the title match (26-24, 18-25, 25-18).
Those wins advance the Buffs to the Class 6A quarterfinal round, which is being played with a different format this year due to changes made by KSHSAA in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
As a result of the format change, the Lady Buffs, who are now 19-13 and have won seven straight matches, will be on the road at Derby (22-11) for a scheduled best 3-of-5 match which is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, weather permitting.
“Opening up the (sub-state) afternoon against Dodge City, you could definitely tell we had some nerves to work through,” Buffs’ head coach Trista Bailey said afterward. “Facing any team four times in a season (Garden was 2-1 vs. Demons) is tough, let alone a host team and a rivalry that runs pretty deep. We caught our rhythm early in the second set and never looked back.”
In the title match against Hutchinson, the Lady Buffs opened strong with a hard-earned 26-24 win before the Salthawks evened things up with a 25-18 triumph to send the match to a third and deciding set.
“Hutch has been on our radar all year,” Bailey said. “We know they are always a potential match-up in our postseason, and they’ve made their way into the rankings for the last couple of weeks, so we were excited for the opportunity to prove ourselves against a good team (20-14).”
The Lady Buffs seized control early in the match and then played well enough down the stretch to give them some separation in the final third of the points, winning decisively by the 25-18 margin.
“Hutch has multiple offensive weapons, and they forced us into some adjustments defensively that we weren’t able to execute in the second set,” Bailey said. “However, our kids made plays when they needed to down the stretch and I’m really proud of their toughness.”
The late-season run by the Buffs counters the tough start to the 2020 fall campaign as the Buffs opened with a 1-5 mark with an almost entirely new lineup following 2019’s 30-5 season.
“It’s hard to wrap your brain around the fact that for the last three seasons, our senior classes have taken home WAC (Western Athletic Conference) and sub-state championships all four years in their career,” Bailey noted. “It’s just an incredible run and I’m so proud that this group was able to continue the run for another year.”
The Lady Buffs are all too familiar with the Lady Panthers, too, as they have split matches earlier this season. On Sept. 29 in the season opening tournament at Valley Center, the Lady Buffs lost 25-11, 25-20 to the Panthers. Three weeks later at the Maize Tournament, the Lady Buffs answered with a 25-23, 25-17 triumph.
Season statistical leaders for the Lady Buffs include McKenna Jagels with 50 service aces, Julie Calzonetti with 179 kills, Abby Ellerman and Symone Simmons tied with 41 blocks, Mya Cruz with 501 assists and Abby Parr with 345 digs.
With the revised KSHSAA state format, the Lady Buffs must defeat Derby to advance to the final four teams on Friday, Oct. 30, at Salina’s Tony’s Pizza Events Center. There, the 4 teams will play a round-robin format to determine seedings of 1 through 4. Then, the teams will be bracketed for semifinals, third-place and championship matches. The entire state is played in one day this year. The round-robin begins at 10:45 a.m. Friday. Semifinals will be played later in the afternoon with finals and consolation matches to be conducted following.
Other quarterfinal matches scheduled for Tuesday include Wichita Northwest (12-1) at Topeka-Washburn Rural (31-4); Lawrence-Free State (18-13) at Olathe Northwest (26-0) and Shawnee Mission Northwest (26-5) at Blue Valley-West (21-7).