LYONS — Hoisington High volleyball coach Tina Johnson wasn’t sure how the Lady Cardinals would respond when they got tested in the Lyons sub-state.
The No. 1-seeded Lady Cardinals played the pressure points with poise to capture a Class 3A state berth at Salina with a hard fought 25-23, 25-10 victory over Garden Plain. Hoisington was also pushed in the semifinals against Beloit.
“We didn’t always handle the pressure at times during the year, but we’ve learned to communicate better and focus on the points as a team,” said Lady Cardinals hitter Mallory Flagor, who broke a school record for kills in the sub-state.
Hoisington (37-3) prepared for such pressure situations by working against a 32-1 junior varsity team in simulated games facing a 23-20 deficit time-after-time. Johnson said it took a while for the varsity to adjust to the mental challenge of being behind.
“It took the girls all week, but they learned to focus on the task at hand,” Johnson said.
The teams traded the lead back-and-forth in the first game. Garden Plain’s Cassidy Haukup, Sierra Hays and Janelle Hoheisel matched the firepower of Flagor and Savannah Rose at the net. Both teams relied on solid serve reception and passing to set up hard-hitting offenses.
Haukup hit back-to-back winners for a 23-22 Garden Plain lead. But Halee Becker missed a serve and Flagor hit a winner off a block for a 24-23 lead. The final serve by Belle Brickley wasn’t returned when two Owls bumped into each other.
Abi Rziha’s accurate setting keyed strong hitting by Flagor and Rose. Flagor set the tone in the second game with four consecutive winners that led to a 9-2 lead. Flagor and Rose took turns for winners with solid defense and passing for a 16-point lead. Mykela Riedl led the defense as libero.
“I give all the credit to my setter for perfect set-ups,” Flagor said. “I’m just focusing on making sure everything I hit goes in. But the better the set, the harder I can hit it.”
Johnson said the Lady Cardinals maintain their confidence when they get the momentum.
“When we started passing better, we played really well,” Johnson said. “The girls play with a lot of confidence, but that also can disappear. They’ve learned better to just keep on playing and focus on the point.”
Also contributing were BreAnna Burns, Jordan Moore and Abbi Demel.
Top-seeded Hoisington cruised into the finals by beating Lyons, 25-12, 25-14, and Beloit, 25-22, 25-13. Beloit’s scrappy, spirited play had the Trojans ahead 22-21 in the first game. But Flagor raised her level and closed out the game with four consecutive winners.
Garden Plain (29-11) advanced to the finals by beating Kingman 25-15, 25-11 and Hutchinson Trinity Catholic 25-23, 25-17. The Owls overcame an eight-point deficit in game one behind winners from Natalie Dooley and Cassidy Haukup.
Trinity’s Emilee Dechant tied the game 23-23 with a tipped winner and a perfect serve. But she missed her next serve and the Owls’ Sierra Hays hit the clincher. The Owls were aggressive from the start in game two, building a nine-point lead. Hays and Cadence Bourne converted the final points. Trinity beat Russell 25-23, 25-16 in the first round.