Central Kansas League volleyball runner-up Hesston High enjoyed a final regular-season tuneup with a sweep of Halstead and Nickerson Tuesday.
The Swathers (24-12, 8-1 CKL) defeated Halstead 25-16, 25-17 and Nickerson 25-17, 25-19 behind a solid all-around performance.
“We played very well overall,” said Hesston coach Jason Peters. “We play tough matches every time we play against Halstead. Serve reception, we started off really strong and were not as strong against Nickerson. Defense, we had our moments where we played very well. When we communicated early and played aggressive, we played well.”
Peters liked the way the Swathers performed, but realizes Saturday’s Andale Class 4A substate will provide a challenge with Wichita Trinity (33-5), Andale (32-7) and Rose Hill (28-8) the top three seeds. Hesston meets Clearwater (22-10) at 3:30 p.m.
Hesston lost to Wichita Trinity 16-25, 25-12, 25-16 and tournament champion Rose Hill 25-23, 29-27 at last week’s Clearwater Tournament.
“There are some teams with stronger hitters, but there is not a big difference between the top five teams,” Peters said. “The team that plays the best Saturday will qualify for state. It’s a matter of mental toughness to not give away a few points. Our first match will be tough, just like every match.”
The Swathers rely on the hard spiking and blocking of Caylee Richardson, Kaylee Unruh, Alex Deegan and Ali Jost. Setter Megan Voth helps set the table. The Swathers are solid everywhere with tight serve reception, blocking and attacks.
“Caylee has stepped up and been a great hitter for us with 50 percent of her spikes going for kills,” Peters said.
Caylee Richardson and Deegan set an aggressive tone against Halstead to close out the first game 25-16. Caylee Richardson and Unruh finished off the Dragons with late-game winners in game two 25-17.
Halstead’s Shelby Howard matched Hesston’s firepower at the net and Victoria Maureth also contributed several winners at the net. Tianna Frizell also performed at a high level. But the Dragons were unable to consistently block the taller Swathers at the net. Hesston’s pressure forced the Dragons into several hitting and defensive errors.
Peters likes to rotate his players to keep his players fresh and his reserves provide a spark.
The Swathers had to fight harder against Nickerson. The script was similar to the Halstead match. Spiking by Caylee Richardson and Unruh gave the Swathers an edge. Jost and Megan Voth also chipped in winning plays.
Nickerson lost to Hesston 25-17, 25-19 and Halstead 25-17, 25-13 on Senior Night. Seniors Ashley Schweizer, Erin Nuss and Becca Hornback were honored at their final home game. The Panthers (5-30, 1-8) will play at top-seeded Ulysses (28-9) at 2 p.m. in the Class 4A volleyball substate Saturday.
The Panthers' Marissa Stewart led the way with several solid spikes and winners. Morgan Erickson continued to provide a second attacker at the net with several blocks and winners. Payten Smith and Schweizer had several winning plays.
Leading the defense and serving were Nuss, Allison Evans and Aubrea Beasley. Cara Clapper and Logan Gitchell provided a spark off the bench. Smith and Schweizer hit winners to draw the Panthers within 20-18 in the second Hesston game.
"We were more aggressive on blocking the hitter and that gave us a chance against Hesston," said Nickerson coach Deedra Woodbury. "We played a lot better. Hesston coach Jason Peters said we had showed improvement from earlier in the season. We kept battling."
Halstead’s Howard, Frazell and Marcy Thomas delivered key winners against Nickerson. Howard’s three winners closed out the first game 25-17. Howard and Frazell made winning plays to end the second game 25-13.
Halstead (23-14, 6-3) will play Remington (22-13) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Class 3A Halstead substate with defending 3A state champion Hillsboro (34-3), Sedgwick (35-1) and Hutchinson Trinity (27-8). Top-seeded Sedgwick defeated Hillsboro 28-26, 25-21 Tuesday. Garden Plain handed Sedgwick its only loss.