MAIZE, Kan.—To call Maize South’s 20-25, 25-20, 26-24 victory over 5A No. 2 Valley Center an upset would be a gross overstatement. The Lady Mavericks have had an up-and-down season involving injuries and illness that has led to different players in positions they’re not used to playing.
Maize South is now back to full strength.
“We are finally doing what I knew we could do,” said a tired, but very excited coach Teri Larson. “Now when I put people in, nobody’s freaking out. They are the team I knew they could be.”
Larson just wanted her girls to believe in themselves because it’s been such a strange season, it’s looking for some confidence.
The search for confidence was shaken early against Andover Central. With the first set tied at nine, the Lady Mavericks went on an 11-5 run and finished off the set at 25-18 after the Lady Jaguars were able to cut the lead to 22-18.
The second set is when Maize South hit the rough waters. It was ahead by 10 points consistently throughout the set and with the Lady Mavericks in the lead at 23-13, it appeared things were about to fall apart.
Andover Central was able to string together a few solid serves and Maize South looked up at the scoreboard and it was 23-22. Central had won nine straight points to threaten to send the match to a third set.
South kept its head on straight, though, something it’s struggled with so far in the young season to come away with the 25-18, 25-22 match win.
“I knew they had the ability,” said Larson. “They just didn’t know it. I told them to just hang in there and go for the jugular, don’t be afraid, go for it. I think we saw them go for it, finally.”
Enter Valley Center, the No. 2-ranked team in 5A. The Lady Hornets stepped on the court with an unapologetic confidence of a mean guy in a dark alley. Valley Center was there to do its job, win and go home. Neither Andover Central nor Maize South were about to take it lying down.
Central gave everything Valley Center could handle in the first set as it never appeared the Lady Hornets were comfortable, but took the set 25-18. The second set was much smoother for the ladies in purple as it won 25-12.
Valley Center had lost only one match entering Tuesday’s game against Maize South. The Lady Mavericks sent it home with another.
The first set appeared tough for Valley Center, but not overwhelming as it came away with the 25-20 set win. It took the lead at 6-5, and no matter how hard Maize South scratched and clawed, it never got to within more than two points after it lost the lead early.
It was the bizzarro world for the second set as Maize South took the lead at 5-4 and didn’t let go for the 25-20 set win. South was cruising at a few points as it held a 14-8 and 15-9 leads. But the tables had officially turned on the Lady Hornets.
Maize South was loose, but focused. It was having fun, but ready to win. The third set saw Valley Center go up 2-0, only to have it disappear to four straight points from the Lady Mavericks.
Maize South worked a 10-7 lead, but that was taken away as Valley Center put together a string of five straight points to go up 12-10 then 13-11. South standout Jody Larson was instrumental in the comeback in the third and final set. The senior put away back-to-back kills starting at 16-14 to tie the match at 16.
Valley Center salvaged a point, but Larson came up big again with another kill to tie the set at 17 and Maize South took the lead at 18-17. Valley Center found a rhythm and won four of the next five points to go up 21-19. It looked grim for South, but the Lady Mavericks remembered what coach Larson had told them earlier in the evening, “Go for the jugular.”
South then stormed back to take a 23-22 lead, but Valley Center was not giving up. With the set tied at 24, Maize South put two points away to seal the 26-24 set win.
“In crunch times this year, we haven’t played like (we did against Valley Center),” said Coach Larson. “We got to get over the hump, we got to break through the wall. I think we broke through the wall finally.”