Goodland continues turnaround year with epic 5-set win
HAYS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Goodland volleyball coach Angie Brumbaugh has instilled several mantras that have propelled the Cowgirls to 29 straight victories. Goodland has preached staying aggressive and relentless with no fear of losing or mistakes. In the last two weeks, Goodland upped the ante at practice with pressure and consequences for each drill.
The work paid off Tuesday in an epic 25-23, 17-25, 25-20, 15-25, 16-14 road victory against Thomas More Prep-Marian in the Class 3A state quarterfinals at Al Billinger Fieldhouse. In front of a raucous crowd, Goodland led 14-11 in the fifth before the Monarchs scored three straight points, including a pair of kills from junior standout Emilee Lane. Goodland freshman Jaxi Mitchek delivered a kill, and TMP committed an attack error.
Depth-laden Goodland, with seven seniors, has enjoyed a massive turnaround and improved to 34-5. The Cowgirls won a combined 16 matches from ’16-18 and finished 18-18 last fall.
“We have done a lot better this year in battling,” Brumbaugh said. “We have put ourselves in some situations that we shouldn’t have been in and battled back. We have been down many times and fought. … That’s a big change from last year. We weren’t battlers. We would get nervous and shut down, and we just had that fear, and I think just not having that fear this year has made a big difference.”
Goodland, outside of the top-10 rankings, is at state for the first time since ’15. The Cowgirls advanced to the final four for the first time since ’03, when it captured the Class 4A state title, according to KSHSAA archives. The final four will be Saturday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
“Goodland ran a really clean offense,” TMP coach Natausha Dreher said. “They’ve got a heavy arm, and they run their offense off the net very nicely, and our blocks just really weren’t working well with that. And I feel like for a little bit, we kind of got down, didn’t run the offense the way we necessarily wanted it to.”
TMP, a traditional powerhouse under Dreher, battled some early-match nerves and fear. The Monarchs finished 30-8 and are 196-43 in the last six seasons. TMP’s last state appearance came in its 3A championship season four falls ago. The Monarchs graduated five seniors. TMP outscored Goodland, 107-98, in total points.
“Their hearts are huge,” Dreher said. “That senior class, I mean, so much love for each other, so much love for the game, and their team.”
Normally, Goodland and TMP would advance to eight-team state tournament played Friday and Saturday. The teams are split into two pools of four squads, and the top-two from each pool advance to Saturday’s semifinals. With COVID-19 concerns, KSHSAA elected to play the quarterfinals at home sites.
“It made me play better for sure,” Goodland sophomore Talexa Weeter said. “Like a loud atmosphere makes me play better, and I think for the whole team, too.”
In 3A, top-ranked Sabetha (36-1) and West Franklin (32-3) won Tuesday. Cheney at Smoky Valley was postponed to Wednesday because of weather.
“It was exciting,” Brumbaugh said. "It was a great environment. It was a great match all through and through. Both teams have a lot of great weapons out there. The defense was good. We had some great, long rallies. The environment was fun. The fans from everywhere.
“That’s what I told the girls at the end – I am like, 'Listen to this. Listen. This is what it’s about, and every match here on out is going to be like this,” she added. “They are going to be neck and neck, so you just have to get out there and believe.”
Goodland never trailed after 4-4 in the first set, though TMP saved three set points, a theme throughout. The Monarchs opened the second set on a 6-0 run and led throughout.
“There were nerves early on, absolutely,” Dreher said. "Nerves playing here at home, and nerves playing about ‘one or done.’ And they kind of settled in. The thing with this group is that they have to play confident, and they have to play happy.
“I mean, I think that that’s just women’s volleyball in general,” she added. “You have to play confident, and you have to play with a short memory. I don’t know if the fear got greater than the fun for a little bit, but they brought it back in that second set.”
In the third set, TMP opened with a 6-4 lead after an attack error from Weeter, Goodland’s leading hitter the last two falls. After the error, Weeter pulled her jersey over her face and wiped her hands on her jersey.
At that point, Weeter had seven kills and six errors. Labeled a “fighter” by Brumbaugh, Weeter never had another error the rest of the match. She finished with three kills in the third as Goodland always led after a 6-6 tie.
“I was just frustrated at first,” Weeter said. “But then I just wanted to go out and play my hardest.”
In the fourth, TMP only trailed at 1-0 and enjoyed a big performance from Lane, senior libero Emilee Augustine and senior outside/defensive specialist Jadyn Gottschalk. Overall, Lane, a returning second team all-state player and recruited at the MIAA level, recorded 23 kills. Augustine finished with 25 digs. Gottschalk, who dove multiple times on the floor, recorded 20 digs and 11 kills.
Goodland countered with its depth. Senior Makayla Wolak, a key player the last two seasons, had seen limited time in ’20 because of health reasons and did not play Tuesday. Senior setter Mikayla Biemann is a three-year starter.
Goodland returned its top-three hitters from ’19 with the 5-foot-9 Weeter, sophomore Olivia Lehman and junior Emma Lehman, both 5-11. Weeter led with 12 kills and the Lehmans each tallied at least nine.
“Last year, sometimes when we got down, we just thought we were done with the game,” Weeter said. “But this year, she’s just taught us that just don’t play with fear, and we’ve just done really good in that.”
Sophomore 5-10 Lindsey Cure helped Goodland often have two blockers at the net against Lane. Senior Anna Gutierrez took over at libero this fall. Gutierrez, known for her quiet demeanor, was critical all night on the back line.
“Usually, I am not a person that gets down on myself or like puts so much pressure on myself,” she said. “I usually just let the last mistake that I did just slide, and then I will think about the next play that’s going to come, and try to focus on that instead of the one that I just did.”
TMP and Goodland very rarely play a best of five match during the regular season. When the fifth set started, Gutierrez said she “was a little scared.”
“It was going back and forth, but usually the last game is just whoever wants it more,” Gutierrez said. “And the more and more you keep playing, the more you have a better attitude. The more you keep fighting, the more you just keep going.”
Goodland took an 8-3 lead in the fifth set before TMP won six straight points. The Monarchs had success with a rotation of Lane, Augustine, Gottschalk, junior setter Kassidi Yost, senior Sophia Coulter and senior middle/opposite McKenzie Linenberger, a reserve.
“Practicing really, really well,” Dreher said of Linenberger. “And she brings a fire and an energy and a lightheartdness to the floor that we really needed at that time.”
Goodland took the 14-11 lead before the Monarchs again tied the match. Then, the Cowgirls ended win back-to-back points behind senior Sydney Hahn’s serving. Weeter hugged Cure and jumped into the air. Hahn hugged Gutierrez as the Cowgirls celebrated on the court.
“You’ve just got to play with no fear,” Brumbaugh said.
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