Forty-eight days ago, Lansing volleyball suffered a 2-0 (25-23, 25-22) loss to Spring Hill Sept. 14 to bring its early-season record to 2-4.
That was the last time the Lady Lions lost this season and on Friday they will carry a 26-game winning streak into the 5A state tournament at Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina.
Since that last defeat, Lansing has been on a tear that is not solely reflected in their record. During the winning streak, the Lady Lions have won 65 sets while losing just five.
“This team has just gotten better and better with each match,” head coach Julie Slater said.
This trip to the state tournament marks the fifth consecutive appearance for Slater’s program that is eying its first title since 2002. Lansing has advanced out of pool play to the semifinals each of the last two years but came away with third place in both instances. In the prior two years, the Lady Lions were eliminated in pool play. Now in this fifth year of making the final eight teams in 5A, they are motivated to break through and win it all.
“The goal of this team has been to win a state title,” Slater said. “Getting third in back-to-back years has driven us to want to accomplish that.”
While fourth-seeded Lansing’s pool of Maize South (1), Andover (5) and Goddard (8) are teams the Lady Lions have not faced this season, the other side of the bracket will feature Spring Hill (2) and St. Thomas Aquinas (7). In addition to playing Spring Hill, Lansing faced Aquinas twice early in the season, and both matches resulted in a narrow defeat for the Lady Lions. Slater said matching up with highly ranked teams during the season is important for playing in the postseason.
“We have played 17 ranked teams during the season and feel that has helped prepare us well,” she said.
In those early losses to Aquinas and Spring Hill, the Lady Lions were without one of their starting seniors in Caroline Crawford. The Kansas University commit spent the first few weeks of the season in Egypt competing for the Team USA U18 volleyball team where she won a gold medal. She returned to the team on Sept. 17 in a 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-16) against Basehor-Linwood at home and has filled up the stat sheet since.
The rest of the Lady Lions followed suit putting up solid stats throughout the season. Karli Schmidt leads the Lady Lions in kills with 325 and is averaging nearly four per set. Crawford is second with 236 while touting a team-leading kill percentage of 56% and only 43 errors. McKinzie Weaver and Jill Carlson both own serving percentages over 95% on over 750 attempted serves with just 30 total errors between them. Kamryn Farris has racked up 354 digs to lead the Lady Lions and is averaging nearly 10 digs a match. Caitlin Bishop is Lansing’s top passer dishing out 519 assists this season with Weaver close behind at 470.
The Lady Lions will open pool play against Andover at 8:30 a.m., then play Goddard at 10:30 a.m. and then finish the day against Maize South at 1:30 p.m. Two teams from both pools advance to the semifinals where the teams will be matched up by seed. In order to advance, Lansing will likely need to win two of its matches and while the goal is to win the championship, Slater wants her athletes to enjoy the moment.
“I want the team to enjoy it all,” she said. Not many teams get the opportunity to even play in a state tournament. Be focused and driven but also stop and smell the roses along the way. It is a special experience that will last a lifetime.”