HUTCHINSON, Kan. - Bishop Miege is back on top. Head coach Kathleen Rush won three-straight titles as an assistant before taking over the top job three years ago. Saturday afternoon at the Class 4A State Championships in Hutchinson, her Lady Stags downed Louisburg 25-13, 25-14 in the championship game.
"This year we really wanted to come back and focus on our end goal being state but also know we needed to continue to build a positive culture and built a group of people that wasn't going to give up in August, September, or October," Rush said. "We knew this was the end goal but we really tried getting everyone on board with having that fight and desire together."
The Stags hand their hand full with 6-foot-3 Kansas-State commit Anna Dixon on the other side. Louisburg has been a mainstay in recent state tournaments, including a second-place finish in 4A, Div. II a year ago.
Early on the big hitters went back and forth. Katrina Davis put down spike for Miege and Carleigh Pritchard put down a ball for the Wildcats for an early 3-3 score. Louisburg stayed close at 7-6 on a stuff from junior Haley Cain.
Miege proved to be too tough with the next seven points before a bad service gave the ball back to the Cats. Stag sophomore Payton Verhulst put down the next two points and Miege cruised the rest of the way to take the first set.
Louisburg was again competitive to open the second set with points from Corinna McMullen and Cain for a 2-1 lead. The Wildcats held the gap to the 5-3 mark when the Stags again took over. After a 5-5 tie, Miege went on to score nine of the next 12 points. Dixon was held largely helpless on the other side.
"We talked a lot about not worrying who is on the other side," said Rush. "We talked a lot about establishing energy within this setting. (Louisburg) had a tremendous number of students here and a great support system. We wanted to make sure we focused on us. Serving aggressively was something we needed to do get them out of system so she couldn't get set as often. And we focused on playing really hard defense."
Louisburg closes the door on a 36-9 year. Miege wins the 4A crown despite entering the field as the No. 7 seed. The Stag roster included five sophomores and five seniors.
"It's exciting that they have this experience," Rush said of her future returners. "They know what it feels like and they know what it takes. Anything can happen on any given day so we knew it was important to stay present from start to finish. I think it's tremendous they were able to do that."
Hayden defeats Andale for third
Andale entered the state field as the No. 3 seed and looked to be in prime position for a spot in the finals after a 25-12 first set against Louisburg in the semifinals. The Wildcats took the final two sets 25-21, 25-14 to advance to the championship.
In the consolation finals, the Lady Indians ran into No. 8 seed Topeka Hayden, coming off a 3-set loss to Miege in the other semifinal. The other Lady Wildcats controlled the third-place match 25-18, 25-19.