LIBERAL — On Saturday, Great Bend High School’s volleyball team stared down two matches between them and a Class 5A state tournament berth.
The Lady Panthers dominated Arkansas City and Liberal in two-set sweeps for a sub-state title.
Great Bend will travel to the state tournament at Topeka’s Expocentre. The tourney starts on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and concludes on Saturday.
“The last time Great Bend went to state was in 2006,” GBHS head coach Kelsey Perry said. “We will either be the six or seven seed the way it looks as of now. Official brackets come out (today).”
The Lady Panthers were the No. 1 seed at the sub-state tournament, entering with a 27-9 regular-season record and a No. 10 ranking in 5A according to the latest Kansas Volleyball Association poll.
Great Bend played against No. 8-seeded Arkansas City, winning 25-10, 25-9.
“We really wanted to control emotions this match and get in there, win quickly and move on,” Perry said. “We defiantly did that. We didn’t know much about Ark City, but knew they had a rocky season and we didn’t need to do anything fancy except play our game.”
After stomping Arkansas City, Great Bend had to await the winner of the Liberal-Hays match.
“We got to sit and watch the other semifinal and that helped us get mentally ready,” Perry said.
The Lady Panthers toppled host Liberal 25-16, 25-20.
“We spent the entire week preparing to play Liberal for the third time this season,” Perry said. “It is tough to beat a team three times, so we probably over prepared, but we were ready. We knew every serve-receive by heart and exactly where we needed to place the ball.
“Running quicks allowed us to beat their tall front row, so they could not block us.”
In both sets of the championship match, Great Bend rode long runs to win.
“The first match, we strung several runs together, and we really pulled away after five points and never let up,” Perry said. “The second set, we discussed how nobody wants their season to end, and we knew Liberal was going to fight hard.
“They did, and it was close until 12-12 when we went on a roll and got the lead to 22-16. We let them creep back, but got our composure back and finished the match.”
— Kevin Price