LYONS, Kan. Hesston and Cheney always seem to be among the final teams playing in Class 3A. Last year, the Lady Cards made it all the way to the state finals and Hesston finished third in Emporia. Saturday evening, the teams met a bracket early in the championship match of the Class 3A sub-state in Lyons. Hesston won 25-17, 25-22 to punch its ticket back to state, this time in Hutchinson next weekend.
The Lady Swathers entered Saturday's sub-state as the top seed despite losing five seniors to graduation, including three in the college ranks this season.
"I knew we had some good talent coming back, some girls who had been part of that great group last year," said Hesston coach Jason Peters. "I knew there was that potential for a good season. It was just a question of how the pieces would fit together and if we could find some team chemistry with a different group and different leaders. It was definitely a possibility."
To reach the finals, Cheney had to overcome three set points in a tough third-set against Halstead in the semifinals. Hesston had an easier route with a 25-17, 25-14 win against Lyons in the other semifinal.
The Lady Swathers rarely trailed in the first set of the championship match. Some kill from junior Talby Duerksen and a stuff from senior Rylie Shiling gave Hesston an early 4-3 lead. The Swathers maintained the gap at 11-9 on points from Duerksen and junior Elise Kaiser. Hesston began to pull away with a kill from senior Jada Mininger for an 18-13 lead.
Cheney refused to go down without a fight. Hesston jumped out to a 4-1 lead and pushed the gap all the way to 14-9 midway through the set. The Lady Cardinals chipped away, getting as close as 16-15 on a block and kill from sophomore Kylee Scheer. The set remained close from there on out with Cheney senior Destinee O'Shea tying the score at 20 with a hit.
Duerksen answered with a kill and the Lady Swathers never trailed again. The hitters did enough to stay on top 23-22 before coming up with the final two points.
Hesston takes a wealth of talent to Hutchinson with six seniors and five juniors on the roster. The Lady Swathers have two third-place finishes and a second-place finish at state over the past three seasons. "We just have to believe in ourselves, that's the most important thing," Schiling said. "We're a good team and we know that. We just have to play like it."
Even after losing a talented group that built the winning tradition in Hesston, Peters said this group is capable of doing just as much or more in the state bracket next weekend.
"We've competed well with all the teams we've played this year," he said. "Some we've come up a little short but we've stepped up and played really well. It seems like, across the board in league and Class 3A, everything is wide open. There were lots of seniors on those top teams who graduated last year. I like our chances if we focus and play up to our potential."
Elsewhere around the state in 3A, there will be a new state champion. Reigning champion TMP was part of a loaded field in Phillipsburg. Fourth-ranked Beloit bested the host Panthers 26-24 in an exciting third set to win that sub-state final.
The Silver Lake sub-state featured the top-two ranked teams in the classification. In the end, it was second-ranked Silver Lake with the slight upset. Royal Valley had lost just three matches all season but fell in the finals 25-20, 21-25, 25-16.
Third-ranked Burlington had no difficult advancing out of the Wellsville sub-state. The squad defeated Prairie View, Perry-Lecompton, and West Franklin each in two convincing sets to advance.
Nemaha Central finished fourth in 3A in 2017. The Lady Thunder gets a chance to get closer to the title after winning the Marysville's sub-state. Ranked No. 6, Nemaha Central was able to down Hiawatha, Rock Creek, and Marysville each in two sets.
Belle Plaine climbed to No. 10 in the latest Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association. Now the Lady Dragons are headed to state. As the No. 2 seed at the Douglass sub-state, the girls defeated Fredonia, Collegiate, and fifth-ranked Douglass to make it through the bracket.
In Riverton, No. 2 seed Frontenac took down No. 1 seed Baxter Springs to advance. Frontenac needed three sets to get by host Riverton in the semifinals before coming from behind to beat Baxter Springs 19-25, 25-18, 25-15.
Hoisington's long trip west was worth it as the Lady Cardinals punched their ticket to state. Hoisington, playing out of the tough Central Kansas League, entered the sub-state bracket with just 13 wins.
3A STATE QUALIFIERS
Silver Lake (32-6)
Nemaha Central (35-8)
Belle Plaine (32-8)