By JIM MISUNAS
OTIS — The last time Otis-Bison’s volleyball team celebrated a state trip was 1991. The Cougars captured a state volleyball title in 1986, but last qualified for the state volleyball tournament 25 years ago.
No. 2 seed Otis-Bison upset No. 1 seed Sylvan Grove-Lucas 25-17, 19-25, 25-19 to qualify for the Class 1A-Division 2 state volleyball tournament at Hays. Otis-Bison beat McPherson Elyria 25-8, 25-16 in the semifinals.
“I didn’t even think about state until the last point, until it actually happened,” said Otis-Bison coach Janell Meier. “Our reaction? It was pretty much a whirlwind of emotions. They were all pretty excited and stunned at the same time.”
The Cougars (25-12) play Fowler, Ingalls and top-seeded Wheatland-Grinnell in pool play at Fort Hays State University Friday.
The team’s setters are Kaleigh Meier and Molly Schneider. Hannah Tanger is a defensive specialist and Lacey Mitchell serves as Libero.
Madison Schneider and Kaitlyn Schilowsky are the team’s key outside hitters. Taylor Regan is the Cougars’ middle hitter and key blocker. Maddie Wiltse backs up Regan as a middle hitter and blocker.
“We played really well and worked together as a team,” Meier said. “It was comparable to the best volleyball we’ve played all year. We put our game together Saturday. We focused on our side of the court and what we needed to do.”
Meier coached the girls at the junior high level and started thinking big picture during the off-season.
“I knew they were capable players who had potential for success,’ Meier said. “When I met with our seniors, I told them we had a chance to hang another volleyball banner in the gym. They agreed, got on board and were going to do whatever it required to get the job done.”
Playing Class 2A state champion Central Plains and other high-quality teams in the Central Prairie League boosted the Cougars’ competitive level of play.
“Our league is a great asset,” Meier said. “When we played competitive matches, it taught us character when we played from behind and it taught us what we were capable of when we succeeded.”
The Cougars started by winning five consecutive matches and defeated Western Plains at the Healy Tournament. Now, they’ve ended it at Class 1A state volleyball.
COUGAR STATE VOLLEYBALL
0—Lacey Mitchell, 5-5, jr.
1—Kailyn Loucks, 5-2, so.
2—Maddie Wiltse, 6-0, fr.
3—Molly Schneider, 5-6, jr.
6—Cora Anderson, fr.
8—Kaleigh Maier, 5-4, so.
9—Madison Schneider, 5-9, jr
10—Taylor Regan, 5-11, sr.
13—Hannah Tanger, 5-3, so.
14—Caitlin Schilowsky, 5-5, sr.
18—Cayla Steinert, 5-6, sr.
22—Alix Schneider, 5-6, sr.
Head coach—Janell Meier
CLASS 1A-DIV. 2 STATE VOLLEYBALL
Friday, Hays, Gross Memorial Coliseum
Wheatland-Grinnell 34-6 vs. Ingalls 17-18
Fowler 27-11 vs. Otis-Bison 25-12
Wheatland-Grinnell vs. Otis-Bison
Fowler vs. Ingalls
Otis-Bison vs. Ingalls
Wheatland-Grinnell vs. Fowler
Waverly 26-8 vs. Axtell 22-15
Cunningham 28-9 vs. Wallace County 21-13
Wallace County vs. Waverly
Cunningham vs. Axtell
Wallace County vs. Axtell
Waverly vs. Cunningham