As they battled Salina Central on senior night at Maize, the Eagles were determined to secure the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League’s Division I crown for themselves. Maize coach Betsy Manning said her players wanted to win the title outright instead of sharing with Newton.
Maize was stingy, taking the best-three-of-five match in three games: 25-18, 25-12, 25-22. The victory provided valuable momentum before the Eagles play in their Class 6A sub-state tournament this weekend.
“I think, definitely, having a win helps build your confidence going into sub-state,” said Manning.
Salina Central provided a bigger challenge in the teams’ showdown Sept. 25 at Salina. Maize won that contest 27-25, 19-25, 25-22. Manning said she thought the Eagles dominated Tuesday because they played with more emotion and intensity due to senior night.
Early in the final game, it appeared the competition would be another rout. Maize led 12-6 when Salina Central called for timeout. The margin had narrowed to three, 15-12, when Maize used its own timeout.
The Eagles kept Salina Central at arm’s length, and they led 23-19 late in the finale. However, the Mustangs picked up three in a row to close within one, 23-22.
Maize sophomore Keiryn Swenson sent the ball hurtling toward Salina Central senior Carson Jett, who made contact before it caromed out of bounds. The next and final point resulted in a sweep of Salina Central, a senior-night victory and a league championship.
Manning said part of the reason the final game was close was that three defensive specialists played the front row for senior night. Maize’s seven seniors are important to the program because they have played volleyball for six years, she added.
“They are a very tight-knit group,” said Manning. “They look out for each other.”
Maize is assigned to the sub-state tournament Saturday, Oct. 20, at Garden City. The Eagles will continue their theme of “family,” which Manning described as “our word” and “our mantra.”
“We focus on that at all three levels,” she said.