GREAT BEND, Kan. - Championship volleyball is supposed to go three matches. Then it’s supposed to go down to the wire. Goddard and Great bend did not disappoint Saturday evening. The Lady Lions trailed a set, then trailed 12-6 before rallying to an exciting finish to qualify for state for the second time in three seasons.
“The girls started playing together as a team,” said Goddard coach Marianne Mooney. “I feel like prior to that we were focused more individually. We started trusting each other and used our strengths to come back and take care of business.”
Great Bend, playing as the top seed in the bracket, led most of the first set and seemed poised for its first trip to state since 2013 with the 12-6 score in the second. Goddard senior Kade Hackerott kicked off a run with a kill, and senior Kinley Poynter eventually tied things up at 12 with an ace.
The hitters emerged for both sides, neither of which led by two points until Great Bend picked up back-to-back kills from junior Rachel Panzer for a 20-18 score. Hackerott stuff the next two Panther attacks and senior Madisyn Pitts added a kill and sophomore Cydney Carter a stuff as the Lions survived 25-22 in the set.
Most points were again earned at the net in set three. Goddard went to a quick set to feed Hackerott for several early points. “One of middles was in a car accident this week and she was not playing with us,” Mooney said. “We had to adjust a couple things this weekend. It was figuring out how to adjust without having her.”
Like Great Bend, the Lions pulled ahead by six points midway through the set at 14-8 on a kill and stuff from senior Abbie Medbery. The Lady Panthers slowly began to whittle away at the deficit, cutting the gap to three on an ace from senior Jenna Mauler.
Great Bend got as close as two points late in the set but another kill from Medbery again pushed the Lion lead to three at 21-18. The Lady Panthers scored the next three points and took their first lead of the set at 23-22 on a kill from senior Olivia Mull. Goddard senior Kaitlyn Burris put down the next point and the Lady Lions escaped with the 21-25, 25-22, 25-23 win.
“All of our starters are seniors but one, so it came down to how badly they wanted it and how much they were willing to put out the effort for it,” said Mooney.
Great Bend reached the finals with another 3-set win over Salina South to open the bracket. The Cougars stole the first set 25-23 only to be thumped 25-14 in the second. In the decisive set, Great Bend took the lead for good on a kill from Mull at 7-6. The Lady Panthers led 15-9 midway through and hung on for a 25-21 win. The Lady Panthers finish a successful season at 28-7 overall.
Goddard reached the finals with a 25-20, 25-21 win over Valley Center. The Lady Lions scored the first five points in that match but the Hornets came back to lead 11-10. Senior Sydney Morrow had a run of serves that included two aces as Goddard went on to an 18-12 lead.
In the second set, Valley Center was hanging around at 9-9 before Pitts put down a kill and Hackerott followed with two more for a 13-9 lead. The Lions went on to lead by as many as six points before the Hornets cut the gap all the way to 19-18 on a hit from six-foot-two Johannah Johnston. Goddard scored six of the final nine points in the match for the win.
Goddard takes a 33-7 record to state. The Lady Lions finished fourth in Class 5A in 2017. “We are looking forward to state,” Mooney said. “We’re excited to see some of the Kansas City schools. We haven’t had the opportunity to play them this season. They’re always a challenge but they’re fun games to play.”