At St. John, a postseason run is becoming a foregone conclusion for the high school’s volleyball team.
The Lady Tigers have made the trip to the Class 1A state tournament each of the last six years.
St. John has won the state title three of the last four seasons, and on Friday, it will compete for a third straight Division-I crown at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Before 2010, 1A was not separated into two divisions.
“Every year I tell the girls, ‘Tradition never graduates,’ ” St. John head coach Trish Wade said. “It doesn’t matter if we’ve got 6-footers on our team or a bunch of 5-8 girls, we need to find a way to run our offense and our defense.”
Height has been a key issue for St. John, which is ranked No. 2 in the latest Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association poll. At 5-11, sophomore Sierra Brittain is the tallest player for the Lady Tigers. Teresa Christie is the second tallest at 5-10.
“It’s hurt us a little bit,” Wade said. “We’ve been working on our control defense and coverage all season, and it’s getting better all the time. But we do get hurt a little on the outside block.”
What St. John (32-6) does not lack is experience.
“I think every one of the girls outside of Sierra and Tara (Christie) was on the state team last year,” Wade said, “so almost all of our team has state experience. We’ve lost two seniors each of the last two years, so everyone has had playing time.”
In keeping with tradition, St. John has two seniors this season — Morgan Osborne, who leads the team in kills, and Jamie Waters.
With the level of experience, Wade said the expectations are always high.
“I tell them that when they step on the court, I expect them to win,” Wade said. “They should expect to win, too. That’s what champions do. They should never just expect not to lose.
“If we do lose, that means we have some weaknesses that we have to work on.”
The Lady Tigers are the No. 5 seed, and will be competing in Pool I. They square off with Olpe at 4:30 p.m., Dexter-Cedar Vale at 5:30 and Pike Valley at 7:30.
“From just looking at their rosters and talking with teams who have played them, these are going to be taller teams and powerful teams,” Wade said. “They’ll be along the same line as us, only taller.
“It’s a head thing. We just have to overcome and play our game the way we do.”
The semifinal matches start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship and consolation matches following.
ST. JOHN ROSTER
1 Tia Smith 5-2 Jr.
3 Jessie Hanson 5-3 Jr.
4 Maddy Lippoldt 5-5 Jr.
5 Taylor Woodward 5-4 Jr.
6 Jamie Waters 5-4 Sr.
8 Ashlyn Fisher 5-5 So.
9 Morgan Osborne 5-8 Sr.
10 Haley Falk 5-8 Jr.
16 Sierra Brittain 5-11 So.
17 Tara Christie 5-7 So.
20 Teresa Christie 5-10 So.
23 Alexis Witt 5-9 Jr.