HUTCHINSON, Kan. - The eastern side of Kansas proved to be a big winner in the Class 3A and 4A State Volleyball Championships in Hutchinson Saturday. The morning semifinals featured three 4A schools from the east. The 3A championship match pitted eastern powers Silver Lake and Burlington against one another. Silver Lake moved back to the top of the class with a 25-20, 25-19 win.
The Lady Eagles carried on a tradition of winning at state. Silver Lake won titles in 2013, 2014, and 2016, finished second in 2015, and placed third in 2012. Last year, the team went home early after three-way tie in pool play. This year's team features mostly juniors and sophomores and just two players taller than 5-8.
"Where there's a will there's a way," said Silver Lake coach Sarah Johnson. "These girls have fight in them and we practice being disciplined so we're able to match up against the height. That's what we see around the Topeka area when we're facing Topeka Heights and Seaman. We're used to seeing the height."
Standing in the way of the state championship was top-seeded Burlington. The Lady Wildcats used a big comeback in the second set of Beloit to advance out of the semifinals.
Early in the finals it was all Silver Lake. A kill from Daryn Lamprecht put the Eagles on top 8-4, and the squad maintained the gap at 13-9. Burlington battled back. Behind a trio of kills from senior Alli Blaufuss, the Wildcats eventually tied the score, then took a 14-13 lead on a stuff from senior Kirsten Young.
A battle ensued from there with several ties down the stretch. A pair of kills from Lamprecht spelled the beginning of the end for Burlington, which scored just two of the final 10 points in the opening set. "We never let them go on a run and we try to get the ball back as soon as we can," Johnson said.
Silver Lake jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second set and rarely trailed. Burlington got a pair of points from senior Ashlynn Doebele to take the lead at 12-11 and 13-12. Again it was Lamprecht with the timely kill at 14-13 and the Lady Eagles never trailed again.
Unlike Silver Lake, Burlington will be hit hard by graduation with 10 seniors and two juniors on the state roster. The Lady Wildcats finish the season at 40-5. Johnson will have most of her squad back in 2019.
"Having gone through the year we did this year, they're so much more experienced and they know what it takes to get the job done," she said. "The confidence level will be back and I'm excited."
Beloit defeats Hesston for third
With two third-place finishes and a silver medal at state the last three years, Hesston was hoping to get over the jump after qualifying out of a tough Lyons sub-state. All was going according to plan until a 25-15, 25-17 loss to Silver Lake in the semifinals.
Beloit nearly forced a third-set against top-seeded Burlington in its semifinal match. The Lady Trojans carried some of that momentum into the third-place match with a 25-15, 25-20 win over Hesston.