BY JIM MISUNAS
HOISINGTON — When fifth-seeded Hoisington met No. 7 seed Cimarron for a 3A state berth, it marked the volleyball version of “Dodgeball — A True Underdog Story.”
The Cardinals and Bluejays upset the top four seeds en route to the substate volleyball championship.
When the Cardinals (16-24) clinched the 3A volleyball championship 25-20, 25-15 over Cimarron, coach Jayci Hedash said the girls were emotional.
“It was a good feeling, very emotional, but the girls were all crying,” Hedash said. “It was the realization of what they had accomplished. They proved they were a good volleyball team.”
Hedash said the Cardinals never got ahead of themselves and didn’t think about winning three consecutive matches.
“We had a mindset of leaving everything they had on the floor and playing their hardest,” Hedash said. “We’ve had to play up to our competition all year because of our lack of height. We’ve learned to be a defensive team because of the league we play in. We kept the ball in play and kept digging balls back into play.”
Hedash said the Cardinals showed a flash of brilliance when they upset 2A state-qualifier Smith Center during the Hoisington Cardinal Tournament.
“The thing we started to learn was to not allow our mistakes to bother us,” Hedash said. “We are so much better when our team is up and being positive.”
Bailey Sanders’ accurate jump serving sparked a set-ending 14-2 scoring run for a 25-20 first-set rally. Taylor Boxberger served for a 24-19 lead.
“Our serving was very strong and created multiple points,” Hedash said. “We earned a lot more free balls that we converted into points.”
The Cardinals played their best volleyball of the season.
“It was a great match for us,” she said. “Both teams were on a roll. Our fans definitely helped us play our best. It was enormous to win that first set. Digging out of a hole was big.”
Cimarron led 8-3 in the second set, but the Cardinals rallied with seven straight points. A final 15-6 sealed the second set 25-15 and triggered a festive celebration.
“They played phenomenal defense. It was very hard to find a hole on the court against them,” said Cimarron coach Steve Jones.
Cardinal returning starters are Riley Brungardt, Bailey Sanders, Taylor Boxberger, Jenna Urban and Suzanna Schneider along with newcomer Alyx Lamatsch.
The Cardinals’ defensive secret weapon arrived shortly after the season started when Nickerson transfer Skylar Eidson transferred. Eidson gained state experience as a 4A state runner-up and third-place state finisher the past two years.
“Skylar filled a role that we didn’t have,” Hedash said. “She’s definitely been a big help. We didn’t have anyone who filled that defensive spot.”
Hoisington plays No. 1 Burlington, Nemaha Central and Central Kansas League rival Hesston in Friday’s 3A state pool play at Hutchinson’s Sports Arena.
3A—HUTCHINSON SPORTS ARENA
FRIDAY’S FIRST ROUNDPOOL A—3:30 p.m.—Nemaha Central 35-8 vs. Hesston 30-7; 4:30—Hoisington 16-24 vs. Burlington 37-3; 5:30—Nemaha Central vs. Hoisington; 6:30—Burlington vs. Hesston; 7:30—Hesston vs. Hoisington; 8:30—Burlington vs. Nemaha Central POOL B—3:30 p.m.—Silver Lake 32-6 vs. Belle Plaine 32-8; 4:30—Frontenac 31-10 vs. Beloit 34-4; 5:30—Silver Lake vs. Frontenac; 6:30—Beloit vs. Belle Plaine; 7:30—Belle Plaine vs. Frontenac; 8:30—Beloit vs. Silver Lake
2—Skylar Eidson, 5-6, 12
3—Gracie Aylward, 5-10, 9
4—Alyx Lamatsch, 5-6, 10
6—Bailey Sanders, 5-7, 11
11—Keeley Wolf, 5-6, 10
12—Celia Perez, 5-5, 11
16—Kadence Urban, 5-5, 9
17—Riley Brungardt, 5-8, 12
21—Suzanna Schneider, 5-5, 10
22—Camille Dolechek, 5-5, 9
23—Jenna Urban, 5-6, 11
24—Taylor Boxberger, 5-6, 11
25—Livvy Brewer, 5-5, 9
33—Penelope McCraw, 5-4, 9