BY JIM MISUNAS
HAYS — The Ellinwood Eagles battled, but lost a pair of three-set state volleyball matches against Smith Center 10-25, 25-28, 25-20 and Meade 25-20, 22-25, 25-18.
Because the Eagles won two sets, they could still qualify from pool play in a three-way tie with a two-set sweep of Alma-Wabaunsee in their final march.
The Ellinwood Eagles made school history by qualifying for the 2A state volleyball championship for the first time since 1997.
Ellinwood stunned Ellsworth 25-23, 25-17 after the Bearcats had swept three matches against the Eagles during the season. The Eagles have swept 10 consecutive matches and were 14-1 since losing to Ellsworth for the third time.
“We raised our level of play. We shocked them a little bit with how well we played,” said Ellinwood coach Greg Maxwell. “Everything fell into place. The girls are anticipating and reacting quicker, making our defensive coverage better. We attacked at a higher level. This was the type of team we thought we could be.”
Maddy Ward provided three ace serves. Mya Maxwell led the attack. Strong backcourt defense from Kaitlyn Pohlman, Jozlyn Brown and Hailey Gross forced Bearcat errors.
Mya Maxwell swing the first set with several winning spikes after a 22-22 tie.
“Mya made the plays we needed and we kept the pressure on,” Maxwell said. “Mya kept attacking and found some holes. The girls played to win. At some point, you’ve got to make a winning play.”
The Eagles applied relentless pressure on the Bearcats who continued to make mistakes in the second set.
“The emotion of the moment knowing a state berth was at stake gave the Eagles unmatched energy and confidence,” Maxwell said. “We ended the set with a devastating ace from Mya Maxwell and a match-ending kill from Ward.”
Maxwell ended the match with 12 kills followed by Ward’s 7. Ward led in assists with 11 while Kaitlyn Pohlman had 11 saving digs, Ward 10 and Maxwell 9. Brooke and Ward both had solo blocks.
SEMIFINAL— The Eagles swung the early momentum with aggressive play, 25-16, 25-20 over Inman on the Teutons’ home court. The Eagles never let the Inman crowd get fired up.
“We asserted our game and got off to great starts,” Maxwell said.
Ward led with 11 kills and seven assists. Maxwell contributed 10 kills and 10 assists. Kaitlyn Pohlman led with 10 digs while Maxwell and Anahi Mendez each had eight digs. Ward, Allison McReynolds and Brooke McReynolds had solo blocks.
FIRST ROUND—The Eagles rolled past Hillsboro 25-15, 25-19. Ward had 19 kills. Maxwell passed out 15 assists. Pohlman led with 16 digs while all of the girls contributed defensively.
Maxwell said key defensive saves by libero Jozlyn Brown swung a mid-season Victoria match, which marked the first high-quality team the Eagles defeated.
“We’ve played in tough matches, but Victoria was the first time we beat a state-quality team,” Maxwell said. “That showed the girls we were capable of being a state-tournament team. The girls started to believe in themselves.”
Mya Maxwell started to progress from a foot injury last year. Another key was allowing Maxwell and Ward to share rare dual roles as hitters and setters.
“That allows us to have a quality hitter and quality setter on every rotation,” Maxwell said. “Maddy Ward has great soft hands. It’s made us a better volleyball team.”
2A—FORT HAYS STATE
FRIDAY’S FIRST ROUND
POOL A—10 a.m.—Shawnee Maranatha 29-7 vs. Garden Plain 31-9; 11—Pittsburg Colgan 40-0 vs. Valley Heights 24-15; Noon—Maranatha vs. Velley Heights; 1—Colgan vs. Garden Plain; 2—Garden Plain vs. Valley Heights; 3—Colgan vs. Maranatha
POOL B—10 a.m.—Meade 33-5 vs. Wabaunsee 29-10; 11—Ellinwood 27-11 vs. Smith Center 34-5; Noon—Meade vs. Ellinwood; 1—Smith Center vs. Wabaunsee; 2—Wabaunsee vs. Ellinwood; 3—Smith Center vs. Meade
1—Hailey Gross, OPP, 10
2—Jozlyn Brown, DS, 10
3—Mya Maxwell, S-OH, 10
10—Anahi Mendez, OPP, 10
18—Kelly Ann Williams, MID, 11
25—Maddy Ward, S-OH, 12
26—Brooke Reynolds, MID, 9
27—Allison Reynolds, MID, 9
30—Kaitlyn Pohlman, L, 12
5—Skylar Harrington, L-OH, 10
6—Jayden Harrington, OH, 11
21—Eliana Hernandez, MID, 10
23—Eva Quintana Schartz OH, 10
24—Mary Dimitt, S, 9