1A state volleyball
BY JIM MISUNAS
OTIS — The Otis-Bison Cougars are thankful for the revamped 1A state volleyball tournament at Emporia. The Cougars join Beloit St. John’s as regional runners-up which captured state berths a week later.
The Cougars rallied past Atwood Rawlins County 22-25, 25-18, 25-17 and Kensington Thunder Ridge 25-15, 27-25 to qualify for 1A state volleyball for the third consecutive year. The Cougars (38-2) will play defending state champion Centralia in their first match and later play Olpe and Wheatland.
State tournament veterans Maddie Wiltse, Sidney Schneider and setter Kaleigh Maier headline the three-time state qualifying Otis-Bison Cougars. Wiltse converted key spikes to close out the Thunder Ridge match. Cora Anderson, defensive specialist Hannah Tanger, Kailyn Loucks and Cristen Trapp also gained valuable state experience last year.
Coach Janelle Maier was selected as 1A Division 2 Coach of the Year after leading the Cougars to a 30-11 record and school-best runner-up 1A state volleyball finish. Northern Valley beat the Cougars 25-15, 25-17 in the 1A state championship match. The Cougars upset Beloit St. John 25-20, 25-16 in the semifinals.
“Whenever you qualify for a state tournament, it’s a happy joyous occasion,” coach Maier said. “It’s a goal for every team to quality for state. It’s always an accomplishment to celebrate.”
A pep rally will be staged at 3 p.m. Friday followed by an escort out-of-town.
Maier said the Cougars have played their best volleyball down the stretch, even when they were losing two matches at the Central Prairie League Tournament.
“We’ve played great volleyball, and concentrate on our side of the court,” Maier said. “We’ve had moments throughout the season when we’ve played great volleyball.”
Maier said the girls have experienced success and continue to improve as a team.
“Anytime you have experience, it gives you confidence as a team,” she said. “But every year and every team is new. We’ve got a chance. Every team starts out 0-0 at the state tournament.”
Defending Division 1 state volleyball champion Centralia (39-0) is a dominating favorite after winning the school’s 14th state championship. Division 2 runner-up Otis-Bison, third-place Wheatland and fourth place Beloit St. John’s return from last year’s Division 2 tournament.
1A—EMPORIA WHITE AUDITORIUM
FRIDAY’S FIRST ROUND
POOL A—10 a.m.—Olpe 31-9 vs. Wheatland 30-9; 11—Otis-Bison 28-12 vs. Centralia 39-0; Noon—Olpe vs. Otis-Bison; 1—Centralia vs. Wheatland; 2—Wheatland vs. Otis-Bison; 3—Centralia vs. Olpe
POOL B—10 a.m.—Beloit St. John’s 32-8 vs. Moundridge 31-10; 11—South Gray 28-11 vs. Spearville 39-0; Noon—Beloit St. John’s vs. South Gray; 1—Spearville vs. Moundridge; 2—Moundridge vs. South Gray; 3—Spearville vs. Beloit St. John’s
0—Hannah Tanger, 5-4, DS, SR
2—Maddie Wiltse, 6-1, MH, JR
4—Sidney Schneider, 5-4, OH, SR
6—Cora Anderson, 6-0, MH, JR
7—Anni Bahr, SO
8—Kaleigh Maier, 5-4, SET-OH, SR
15—Cristen Trapp, 5-8, OH, JR
16—Laken Vondracek, JR
17—Lauren Maier, SO
18—Danica Bartonek, SO
23—Kailyn Loucks, 5-4, SET, SR