Lansing, Leavenworth blow away opposition en route to state berths/BLHS moves on, Rams are done
One volleyball program has learned to make the state tournament its second home for years while the other had been made to feel like an orphan on those coveted final weekends.
On Saturday, both teams found equilibrium as the Lansing and Leavenworth high school programs booked passage to the 2017 Class 5A state volleyball tournament in Topeka next weekend with resounding, sub-state performances.
Lansing rolled to another state appearance behind a remarkable run of play in its 2-0 (25-21, 25-15) win over Topeka Seaman in its sub-state final at Leavenworth High while the host Pioneers booked passage of its own just about 20 feet away in their 2-0 (25-12, 25-6) rout of Kansas City Washington in the other final.
For Leavenworth, it is the first state tournament appearance since a run in 1996-98 according to LVHS athletic director James Vanek.
Now, both Leavenworth County schools will make the trek to Topeka together.
“I’ve been telling them all season that they are able to compete with all the teams that we play and they should,” LVHS head coach Cassandra Rockers said of her Pioneers. “They don’t believe it all the time, but hopefully now they can see that they have earned their right to be where they are at.”
The official state tournament schedule was not made available at press time.
Lansing too good when it matters most
It was a complete clinic on domination.
After a semifinal match that had more entertaining action going on among the audience, the Lions (33-6) stood up to the challenge of Seaman who’s 18-20 record coming in was as misleading as the warm weather outside the gym.
Seaman entered the sub-state final on the heels of taking down, defending Class 5A state champions Shawnee Heights only moments earlier and the feeling was that momentum could carry into the final and it did.
The Vikings stood toe-to-toe with Lansing, tied at 12-all and then suddenly led 20-16 late in the first set.
That was when Lansing senior Lacey Angello decided she had had enough of this nuisance and pushed her team forward with a number of huge kills that she sprinkled around, arguably the best offensive play of the season by senior setter Courtney Rexroat.
“We were down four and there was a lot of game left I felt, five points is a lot in volleyball,” Angello said. “We didn’t let up and we said we were going to win this in two and we never gave up. Our student section helped a lot cheering us on. We were never down. We were always up and hyped and that always helps.”
With Angello killing it all kinds of ways, the younger Lions turning it up a notch and leveling their intensity onto the Seaman girls who had no answer and Rexroat delivering a 3-ball, roller over the top of the defense that gently kissed the back-end line, this match was over before set two began.
“Everything was on and we had great energy which is a huge big deal,” Lansing head coach Julie Slater said. “Our seniors weren’t going to be denied today and they were both very driven. When you have your senior leaders doing that, everything falls into place.
“Lacey and Courtney were both talking to the team before the game and during the game, they did a great job with their leadership today. Lacey…when you have a great player step up and do that. She was like ‘Climb on my back, we’re going, I’m taking you there. Courtney, her sets were great today and she ran the offense really well. It was just a great day.”
The second set was merely formality as Lansing served, blocked, hit and dug to near volleyball perfection, playing probably the best stretch of points all season to send Seaman packing to go back to Topeka and stay in bed next weekend while Lansing would visit the Expocentre.
“I think we were so excited and ready to play, everything was just there,” Rexroat said. “It didn’t take any effort. I would just put the ball up there and they would slam the ball. Practice this week really helped us and we did a lot of drills this week to not let the ball hit the floor and play hard with all the intensity that we have.”
The Lions got to their sub-state final by virtue of an emphatically, too-easy win over No. 8 seed Topeka Highland Park in the semifinal match, 2-0 (25-7, 25-4). The first set saw no rallies go beyond four volleys.
The entire match took a scant total of only 21 minutes and junior Lion Kennedy Farris served out the first 21 points for Lansing.
In the preseason, Angello said a state title would be the only acceptable objective for this team.
How does she feel now?
“I definitely feel like now that we are going, we might as well take the title,” Angello said. “There is no going back. If we are there, we are there to win. There is no, ‘Oh, we did good.’ The road doesn’t end until we are in that championship.”
“I believe we should win the state title,” Rexroat said. “We have nothing to lose. We just have to go out there and play and I believe we can do it.”
The Pioneers reintroduce themselves to state
Sure, the sixth-seeded Pioneers (14-24) may have gone in as the actual favorite to win their half of the sub-state bracket and get to Topeka, but many may not realize the amount of injuries that have plagued the squad, especially in recent days.
So to go into the sub-state without two, key starters, against maybe a weaker field, could have been a serious blow to a golden opportunity.
Instead the Pioneers seized their opportunity and rolled to wins in both matches, turning their opponents into little more than target practice as they rolled to four easy set wins.
They wrapped up their day when senior Randi Ramos sent her girls to Topeka with another of many kills in the two matches.
“I am just so proud of us, we had a rough season and overcame a lot of injuries,” Raymos said. “Just to prove to ourselves and everyone else we can overcome all these things. We are capable of doing whatever we put our minds to. We were playing with half a deck and just having that support (from the injured players), we played for them. We all came together as a team knowing we can do it even if not all of us could be physically there.”
Some concerns rose about looking ahead to the final while watching a sloppy first semifinal as the Pioneers waited, may have bit LVHS in other cases, but not this group.
“Knowing what we need to do and what we need to do to get there is like that final touch in playing how we play,” Raymos said. “It really helped us knowing what we needed to do to get this done.”
Regardless of the easier draw, Rockers doesn’t believe her girls will take the next task at hand lightly and will take this weekend in a smart perspective.
“Them making it has already put that in their heads, that they deserve to be there,” Rockers said. “We fought all season with confidence issues. This is a real confidence booster for them and this whole week they’ve worked harder than they have all year. They want it.”
The best sign was that LVHS didn’t play down to the competition and absolutely dominated both matches.
“That was our goal whole week that we aren’t focusing on their side of the net, just our side of the net,” Rockers said. “Putting the ball away and executing on what we have been working on (was the focus). I am extremely proud of them because I hadn’t seen them play with that mindset like that. I am extremely proud of how they stepped up and got it done. They wanted it and they went out and got it.”
In their first match of the day, the Pioneers got off to a sluggish start before righting the ship and rolling out to a 25-9 first set win.
They replicated the feat in the second set, winning 25-9 as the team brought plenty of thunder at the net and never allowed Wyandotte a chance to get into rhythm.
BLHS VB moves on
After a slow start at the Atchison sub-state tournament Saturday, the Basehor-Linwood girls would not be denied as they breezed to the Class 4A-I state tournament next weekend.
The No. 2 seeded Bobcats (24-14) dropped the opening set to No. 3 Piper in the semifinal round, got things to together and held on for a2-1 (24-26, 26-24, 25-20) win and soon after routed the No. 1 seeded hosts, Atchison 2-0 (25-7, 25-7).
No other information was made available.
Rams’ season ends
The Pleasant Ridge squad was able to come up big in the opening round of the Horton Sub-State but after that, things got a bit difficult.
The Rams made it 3-0 against Horton this season, eliminating the hosts in impressive fashion 2-0 (25-23, 25-10) to start the day and then were ultimately eliminated by one of the best 3A programs in the state, Nemaha Central 2-0 (25-14, 25-14).
No other information was made available./