Volleyball wins 6A state title led by seniors

Lions win volleyball state championship

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Volleyball wins 6A state title led by seniors

The volleyball team celebrates in a dogpile after winning the final point of its match to be named 6A state champions during the state tournament in Salina.

The volleyball team celebrates in a dogpile after winning the final point of its match to be named 6A state champions during the state tournament in Salina.

Alex Lane

The volleyball team celebrates in a dogpile after winning the final point of its match to be named 6A state champions during the state tournament in Salina.

Alex Lane

Alex Lane

The volleyball team celebrates in a dogpile after winning the final point of its match to be named 6A state champions during the state tournament in Salina.

By Daniel Davidson, Sports Editor

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Salina – The Lions stormed the court and collapsed in a dogpile as soon as senior Michaela Cordova’s attack launched the ball off an opposing player to give them the state title.

Lawrence faced off against Blue Valley in finals on the second day of the 6A State Championship at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. The Lions ended a dominant season by winning the third set in the match (25-14) to give the team its first state title in 16 years.

Coming in the first day of the tournament, the Lions were ranked as the first seed with an impressive 31-2 record. After going up against Blue Valley West, Gardner-Edgerton and Blue Valley, the Lions finished Friday night undefeated.

“I knew we were going to come out and do well, and we knew that the other teams were going to do well, too,” senior Cortney Hanna said. “The competitive level was exactly what we expected.”

Going into finals on the second day, senior Laura Willoughby said team members felt like they already had the state title locked down.

“When we beat Washburn in the first set of semifinals, we all knew,” Willoughby said. “Washburn was, to us, more of the championship game… they’re honestly the most intimidating team we played, so once we had that first set we knew we had them down, and when we won that game we all sort of just knew we were going to win [state].”

But to win that coveted state title, the Lions would have to beat a tough Blue Valley team a second time.

In their first game against Blue Valley on Friday, the Lions narrowly won in the second set. Going into the championship game rematch, the team stressed the importance of staying level-headed.

“Our whole thing the entire year was having little games to five, winning those games by five just helped us get through the whole thing,” Willoughby said. “Little steps to get there helps us a lot because little victories ultimately to get 25 just slows the game down and keeps us focused.”

In the championship match, when the Lions dropped the first set to Blue Valley (19-25), this sort of mindset became crucial to the team. The Lions had only lost nine of 90 total sets the entire season, and this game would mark only the fifth time this year Lawrence needed a third set to win a game.

The Lions started to dig in and were able to keep the lead the majority of the second and third sets, which Willoughby attributes to the team’s strong defense, especially from senior Lauren Maceli.

“Lauren is just so amazing, she doesn’t let anything drop, and she passes balls that you wouldn’t think are even possible,” Willoughby said. “We go after everything and never let a ball drop without throwing our bodies at it, and that’s something we have that a lot of teams didn’t.”

This relentless defense by the Lions also allowed the team to dominate the court offensively and keep racking up points. Senior Abby Monroe finished with 12 kills, Bailey Unruh with seven, and Sammy Williams with four.

With last season being the first since 2009 that the team reached state, the Lions came in motivated to go even further. After dominating the first few games of the season, Coach Stephanie Scarbrough and team members were determined to make it all the way at state.

“All year has been very business like,” Scarbrough said on the first day of the tournament. “This what we’ve been looking forward to all year, and it’s time to earn it.”

Willoughby looks forward to raising another state banner in the gym.

“I feel just amazing,” she said. “On top of the world this week.”