TMP tops Hays in classic between sisters
HAYS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Hays High head volleyball coach Shannon Funk and Thomas More Prep-Marian coach Natausha Dreher are sisters and best friends. The pair is extremely instrumental in building volleyball in the Hays area and western Kansas.
Funk has coached a variety of teams, including many years at the middle school level in Hays, along with a season as a Fort Hays assistant coach. She assisted her sister at TMP from 2014-17, the last one that culminated in the Class 3A state championship.
This year, Funk’s youngest child went to school, and she became the HHS head coach and high school teacher. On Saturday, Hays High hosted the season-opening Maroon and Gold volleyball tournament, the first KSHSAA sanctioned competition in Hays since play halted in the middle of the state basketball tournament during March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Funk thought Hays High and TMP could meet in the finals, a belief that came true. The cross-town squads delivered a terrific finale in return to play. TMP, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, edged Hays High, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23 to win the eight-team tournament.
“I have a connection with those kids,” Funk said of TMP. “I want them to do well. I want my kids to do well, so what happened today was truly the ultimate goal.”
Monarch junior Emilee Lane, a returning second team all-state player, finished with 17 kills in the win. TMP senior libero Emilee Augustine collected 19 digs in the last two sets. In an extreme rarity, Hays High outpointed TMP, 70-68, though lost.
“Overall, I loved it,” Augustine said. “It was so much fun. That’s like the championship game you want to be in all the time.”
Hays High, generally a 5A squad, rarely plays the Monarchs in volleyball, football, basketball, baseball and softball. This marked the first volleyball match since TMP also beat HHS in three sets on Sept. 23, 2017. The teams could match up again later this fall. Dreher said it was exciting to be in a Hays tournament and “have the pride of Hays volleyball.” Dreher said the players and coaches “hoped” to face each other.”
“When your sister is coaching over there, it’s just nothing’s better,” Dreher said. “Nothing is better.”
The fans gave a standing ovation to both squads as soon as the match ended. The players know each other very well, and the teams took a joint photo on the court. Dreher and Funk embraced and had a photo with their mother and other family members. Dreher had teary eyes.
“It’s been a year for our family,” Dreher said. “And to get to see just the joy and the pride in what my sister is doing, and seeing how she’s just doing – I love seeing her successful, and I love that we both get to be in this platform where we are doing something that we really enjoy. And it was just a lot of tears of pride falling after my mom and all the years of her coaching. Our dad getting to be here and watch, I was just really happy.”
The day started at 9 a.m. Last season, Olathe West won the tournament over Hays High and TMP finished third. However, OW pulled out because of COVID-19 concerns in Johnson County.
At first, the tournament was going to be a seven-team round robin. Then, Salina Central joined the tournament, which allowed for two four-team pods. Colby, Salina South, Wheatland-Grinnell, Bucklin and Scott City also participated.
“I believe it has gone as well as expected,” Hays High athletic director Lance Krannawitter said. “Giving everything that we are trying to deal with at this point. But obviously there’s some things probably that I wouldn’t say were overlooked, but maybe we just need to think about as we move forward - cleaning of benches, those kind of things probably.”
“And just maybe seeing if teams, if we have a large event, maybe teams probably leave the gym a little bit more, so we have a little bit more ability to social distance,” he added. “But all in all, everybody wore their masks. They practiced social distancing as much as they can, and we had great volleyball.”
Some volleyball teams, including the Wichita public schools, are not yet cleared to play. Others, such as tournaments in Healy and around Butler County area, did not allow fans. Hays High, with working along the Ellis County Health Department, elected to have fans, though everyone was required to wear a mask.
“It was so great,” Funk said. “It was rough at the beginning. We forgot game balls, the net wasn’t the right height. We didn’t have the flags out, and that’s not on Lance. That’s on both of us (my sister and I). It’s just like, it’s been a minute since we have done anything, and we are just like, ‘Oh yeah.’ And the refs were great today. They were so patient with everything.”
Players and coaches wore masks and teams did not switch sides, per state protocol. Hays High held Senior Night festivities after bracket play, likely a common occurrence across Kansas because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
TMP finished 5-0 after a 33-7 season last fall that featured just one senior.
“The kids, they understand where they are at in times of stress, and they understand where they are at in times of joy,” Dreher said. “And I feel like that is a very beneficial thing.”
Hays High (4-1) returned just 22 percent of its kills and had two seniors with varsity experience: senior libero Brooklyn Schaffer and hitter Alexa Moeckel. Schaffer, a college prospect, led HHS in digs in ’19 and again anchored the back row. She was named the tournament’s Outstanding Defensive Player.
“She is not afraid to have the ball in her hands,” Funk said. “So when the other team is serving, she wants them to serve it at her. She is not afraid of anything.”
Moeckel was one of several Indians who emerged, along with senior Maia Lummus, a JV player in ’19, and Katelyn Suppes.
“Today was surprising honestly,” Funk said. “My girls developed overnight. We did a team bonding thing last night, and it paid off greatly today, and they clicked. They played well. They were determined. They just were a different team.”
Junior Ella Voth suffered an ankle injury with Hays High leading Salina Central, 17-16, in the second set in a pool play matchup. Voth missed the remainder of competition. Funk said HHS had to change game strategy “quite significantly” after Voth went out.
The Indians ended the set on an 8-2 run to win the match. Notably, junior Kenzie Flax, who never played varsity in the past, had to change roles. She served a 15-0 run in the first set against Colby, the eventual third-place team, in the semifinals.
“When she went down, we had to have our setter who usually only plays back row play all the way around,” Funk said. “…Before the championship game, we went in and drew up a whole new rotation. My setter who never plays front row was swinging left side for us. She did great.”
TMP led the majority of the first set behind seven Lane kills. Hays High committed five service errors. In the second set, the Indians had eight digs from Schaffer and committed just three service errors – none after the set’s 12th point.
“With a team like TMP, you can’t have errors, you have got to play clean,” Funk said.
In the third set, Augustine delivered 10 digs. Hays High’s last lead came at 13-12, though the deficit was one-point multiple times and tied at 23.
“That’s what you want in a championship match,” Dreher said. “I called timeout at one point and I said, ‘Girls, this is exactly what you want.’ This is what you compete for. This is the reason they do championship games, so just love it, be where your feet are, and enjoy every second and every ball.”
However, Lane delivered a kill for a 24-23 advantage.
“We noticed that some of their players were hitting more spots more than usual,” Augustine said. “So we were like, ‘Hey, you know let’s set our block out more – more out on the line.’ Overall, our blockers did a great job.”
Then, HHS ran a setter dump, but junior Kassidy Yost, delivered a diving dig and hit the ball over the net, and the Indians couldn’t execute a successful dig. The standing ovation immediately ensued.
“The competition was great,” Augustine said. “I think coach Funk is doing an unbelievable job coaching them, and overall, it was a little nerve-wracking, but overall, it was so much fun for sure.”
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