No. 1 Central Plains overcomes size to win in Russell
RUSSELL, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Two tournaments in and the Central Plains volleyball team has already seen its share of diversity. The reigning 1A champion Lady Oilers spent two weeks in quarantine before opening the season last weekend with losses to ranked Nickerson and Ellinwood teams in Ellsworth.
Saturday in Russell, the Lady Oilers were again the team to beat. After a 3-0 run through a pool including Hoisington, Goodland, and Russell, Central Plains defeated Norton 25-17, 25-19 for the tournament title.
“We knew coming in as the smallest school we had a lot to play up against,” said Lady Oiler coach Lisa Crites. “It was nice just seeing the adjustments the girls made throughout the day and seeing they’re just full of fight.”
With COVID-19 restrictions, the 8-team tournament was split into two pools in two locations. The Lady Oilers came from behind to take down Goodland 16-25, 25-32, 25-18. Central Plains trailed 21-16 late in the second set of that match before senior Lexi Oeser served up a trio of consecutive aces. The Lady Oilers knotted the score at 21 with points from junior Kassidy Nixon and senior RyenneCunningham, then took a 22-21 lead on a stuff from freshman Kashlin Beck. Nixon and Cunningham again provided the final two Lady Oiler points at the net to secure the set.
Central Plains also needed three sets to hand Hoisington just its seconds loss of the season 22-25, 25-21, 25-19. The Lady Oilers downed host Russell in straight sets 25-8, 25-23 in the final pool match. Crites was relieved to see her squad take down the final two opponents in straight sets.
“It was very nice,” she said. “I felt like our defense finally started picking up on some cues and making some good adjustments on the back row. The team really played well together.”
The first set of the championship match remained virtually even halfway through with neither side leading by more than three points to a 12-12 tie. Lady Oiler senior Callie Zink took over on serve. With an ace from her, a hit from junior Riley Thompson, and a tip from junior Shaylah Kempke, the Central Plains lead grew to 20-12. Down the stretch, Oeser scored on a pair of tips to help secure the first set 25-17.
Nixon was huge in the second set with the first four Lady Oiler points. Norton sophomore Avery Porter and senior Avery Miller answered with spikes on the other side to keep things close at 4-2. A kill and stuff from Lady Jay sophomore Cara Cox kept the gap at two at 10-8.
Central Plains tried pulling away, first with some offense and defense from Oeser to lead 13-9. The Lady Oilers led by as many as seven points before Norton mounted its next comeback bid, led by two aces from Cox and three kills from senior Tessa Hauser.
Norton ultimately tied the score at 19 on a stuff from Porter and an ace from sophomore Erika Miller, but the Lady Oilers, just as they did in last year’s championship game, responded under pressure. Kempke served up an ace and Oeser scored on back-to-back points to set up the championship point. Oeser came up swinging for the final point in the 25-19 set.
Norton finished its day at 3-1. Playing at Russell Middle School, the Lady Jays opened with a 21-25, 25-21, 25-22 win over Topeka West. Things got easier after that with a 25-22, 25-15 win over Minneapolis, and a25-13, 25-20 win against Larned. Hoisington also had a big day at 2-1 with a 3-set loss to Central Plains and wins against Russell and Goodland.
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