For the first time since 2002, the Derby Panthers advance to the state championship tournament in volleyball winning in straight sets over Liberal 25-8, 25-14.
Oct 26, 2019; Derby, Kansas, USA; during the substate regional championship in Derby ©KellyRoss
The Panthers put on a clinic against the Redskins, only trailing once in the entire match. Derby proved to be too much at the net for Liberal using a mix of aggressive kills and savvy blocks to pave the way to the win.
For Derby, the trip to the state tournament marks history for the Panthers, ending a drought of state tournament appearances.
"This is insane," said senior Sydney Nilles. "I knew coming in that we had a huge chance and i am so glad that we were able to put it all together, to bring it home for (Coach Shelby) Kraus and all of the fans." she added.
Nilles' teammate and fellow senior Jalen Keener echoed that feeling saying, "It feels unreal, this is such a big honor for us and we have been fighting the whole year for this," she shared.
This will be the third state appearance for Head Coach Shelby Kraus, following trips in 2001 and 2002.
"I love this group of girls a lot," Kraus explained. "Most of them have played for me for three years and some of them for four years so I feel like together we accomplished this. Not just individually, it really was a team effort all around." she said.
Kraus credits early matches with Washburn Rural and Garden City as confidence boosters for the Panthers headed into the state tournament. She says this group and its willingness to play for each other stood out on Saturday.
"They wanted to do it for each other," she said. "There was not anyone out there playing for themselves, that is huge when they are playing for each other." Kraus explained.
Derby will open tournament play Friday, November 1st in Salina.