Volleyball team makes first state appearance since 2009


Gary Schmidt

Junior Hannah Stewart directs her team during the 6A state volleyball tournament on Friday night in Topeka. The Lions made their first appearance in the state tournament since 2009.

By Gary Schmidt, Newspaper Co Editor-in-Chief

With the ball in her hands for what could have been the last time in her career, senior setter Laurel Bird tossed it up, sweetly hitting her serve to the opposition.

A weak return saw the ball come back to the Lions and, after a dig, Bird set the ball to senior outside hitter Katelyn Mask who spiked the ball home against Garden City.

That point was one of many that contributed to the Lions first victory of the state tournament on Oct. 27, in which the Lions finished 1-2, not advancing past pool play.

Despite the disappointment of the day, Bird was happy with the final result of her career and the Lion’s first trip to the state tournament since 2009.

“[My final match] was very sentimental,” she said “I just tried to make every moment count.”

The Lion’s first state tournament appearance in eight years started strong. But, facing No. 2 seed Washburn Rural, the Lions knew they would have their work cut out for them.

Gary Schmidt
Junior Laura Willoughby strikes the ball during the 6A state volleyball tournament on Friday night in Topeka as the Lions face Blue Valley West. The Lions lost three sets to BVW.

The first set began with both teams trading points. After 10 points, the Lions pulled ahead of the Junior Blues. The team held a narrow advantage, up 24-21, with only one point left to clinch the first set. After Washburn Rural scored two straight points, the Lions won the first set after a junior Sammy Williams spike.

The second set was also back and forth, but this time the Junior Blues had a slight advantage throughout the set. The Lions were able to climb back within a few points until Washburn Rural took a five-point lead, clinching the set.

The third set did not go as well as the first two for the Lions. A after a hot start, the Junior Blues took a big lead. The Lions didn’t back down, though,with many long rallies against the Junior Blues.

In the end, the lead was  insurmountable, and the Lions suffered their first loss of the state tournament. Ultimately, they played well against a talented team, which went on to place third.

In game two, the girls knew what it would take to beat the Blue Valley West Jaguars, having played them earlier in the season at the Joan Wells Invitational.

Gary Schmidt
The Lions made their first appearance in the state volleyball tournament since 2009 when they competed Friday, Oct. 27, in Topeka.

The Lions came out strong and in control, winning the first set. However, in the following set, the Jaguars exploited some of Lawrence’s weaknesses, allowing the Jaguars to pull ahead. The opposing outside hitters dropped the volleyball over LHS blockers and under defensive specialists and setters.

The Lions could not catch up to the rallying Jaguars and their constant offensive adjustments through the second and third set, ultimately losing the game in three sets.

In the third game, against Garden City, the Lions entered the match knowing they would not advance, however, they were still determined to come out of state with a win.

“We were just playing for our pride,” Bird said of the team’s mindset entering the final match. “Lawrence High is big on tradition. We were trying to finish like Lions finish.”

Facing a team that also took Washburn Rural to three sets, the Lions knew they had their work cut out for them. Garden City came out fast, but the Lions responded faster, turning a quick deficit into a 25-19 first set victory.

In the second game, Garden City dominated at the net, stifling the Lions early and often en route to a 25-16 victory for the Buffaloes.

With nothing left to play for except pride, the Lions dug in for their final set of the season, determined to win the final set for the first time that day.

The two teams battled back and forth, neither able to take a decisive lead, until the Lions were able to break free midway through the set, pushing themselves to a four point lead at 17-13.

Gary Schmidt
Senior Laurel Bird makes her final outing as a Chesty Lion after helping lead the Lions to the state volleyball tournament for the first time since 2009.

The Lions carried this lead until match point, when they gave up several points, allowing Garden City to claw their way back 23-24.

Down to their final set point, the Lions found victory in an erroneous hit from Garden City, earning the Lions their first victory of the tournament.

Head coach Stephanie Scarborough said she was pleased to send her seniors off with a win, especially on such a big stage.

“[It was] great,” Scarborough said. “Playing that last match for pride, that last match for the school. It’s great to finish to season on a win, getting a win on that state court.”

With a team dominated by juniors, the future looks bright for the volleyball program.

Junior Brooke Wroten is particularly confident.

“Next year we are coming back and we are going to be stronger,” Wroten said.