When Jon Bingesser came on board prior to the 2012-13 school year, he noticed the would-be volleyball talent.
Bingesser is the first-year head coach at Hoisington High School, who has the Lady Cardinals back where they were last season — competing in the Class 3A state tournament at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
“It is a new experience for about half of our team,” said Bingesser, a Pittsburg State University graduate, who coached at Northeast-Arma, near Pittsburg, the previous three seasons. “It’s my fourth year of coaching varsity, but my first year in going to state.”
Fourth-seeded Hoisington (31-8) opens play on Friday, taking on No. 5 seed Gypsum-Southeast of Saline (29-8) at 4:30 p.m. on Court A in Pool I — the first of three matches they are guaranteed. The Lady Cards play eighth-seeded Marysville (23-20) at 6:30, followed by a matchup with top-seeded Garden Plain (37-3) at 8:30.
“I know that we do have a tough pool,” Bingesser said. “We play Southeast of Saline first, and we feel like we can match up well with them. They’re probably pretty similar to us, in terms of athleticism and who they play. I know that the speed will be a little different than ours because we are a lot quicker.
“Same thing with Marysville. They’re going to be a lot taller than us, which will be difficult to get hits around, but we do have an excellent defensive, as well as offensive, coverage.”
Garden Plain undoubtedly will be a stiff test for the Lady Cards, who are state-tested as they finished as the state runner-up last season.
“We’ve got Garden Plain, and they’ll be tough,” Bingesser said. “We play them last (on Friday), so we will get a chance to watch them.
“We have to win at least two of our matches on Friday to advance (to Saturday).”
The state-tested Lady Cards are led by two seniors in Mykela Riedel and Chris Lowry, who both stand at 5-foot-5.
Riedel had 55 digs last weekend in the sub-state play, including 24 against Holcomb in the championship, where Hoisington prevailed, 25-15, 32-30.
“There was a point in the match where we were down, 30-29, and Holcomb’s big middle player, she just pounded the ball as hard as she could,” Bingesser said. “Mykela was able to pop it right up and keep it in play, and it forced their middle to lose confidence.”
Hoisington scored the final three points to seal the deal.
Lowry plays right-side and right-back, according to Bingesser.
“She’s kind of like a silent threat,” he said, “but what she does for us is very crucial because she is a strong server.
“She also steps up the defense.”
Hoisington’s setter is Abigayle Rziha, a 5-11 junior.
“She plays defense on the back row before anything,” Bingesser said. “She takes that first pass, and then Olivia will step up and take that second hit.
“That’s good for us because a lot of teams, their setters, when they hit that first ball that comes over the net, they are right up at the net and the ball lands where they were. Abi does a great job of making sure the ball is off the ground before she tries to start the offense.”
When Bingesser came on board last summer, he noticed that aforementioned talent.
“Definitely, their skill set was there,” Bingesser said. “When I first came into the situation, I noticed that they were very skilled and their ability to pass was good.
“Their intelligence level was high, so all I needed to do was just throw in a stronger offense and defense, and they were real receptive to that.”
Both coach and players seemed to click from the get-go.
“Definitely, the fact that I had girls that were dedicated helped,” Bingesser said. “We worked with setters and middle hitters throughout the summer, every free day that we could … every day that the state would allow us to. They definitely showed the determination to better themselves.”
“Everybody buying in to the new system I’ve brought in has helped a lot. They were able to see that not only did I know that they were the real deal, but they were able to see that I was, as well.”