DODGE CITY, Kan. - Alma-Wabaunsee’s Lauren Schutter broke a bone in her foot early in the 2018 season and didn’t get to play. In the state semifinals, Madisyn Wertzberger severely rolled her ankle in a victory versus Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan. Wabaunsee won the match, but the lack of depth hurt in a Class 2A state title loss to Garden Plain.
“In that championship, if I would have that one additional sub, it sure could have helped,” Wabaunsee coach Tracy Capoun said.
A year later, Schutter and Wertzberger led the Charger offensive attack in a 28-26, 25-19 state championship against Spearville in Class 2A on Saturday at United Wireless Arena.
“We have all of our players here healthy this year,” Wabaunsee senior libero Alexis Hafenstine said. “So it was really good.”
Wertzberger, a 5-foot-10 junior middle hitter, delivered 14 kills and hit .286 on 28 attacks. Versus Garden Plain, Wertzberger finished with zero kills and one error on four attempts.
“It was awesome,” Wertzberger said. “It was so much fun, and not getting hurt was so much fun to play, because last year I couldn’t really play.”
Schutter, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, tallied six kills and averaged .188 on 16 swings in the finale. She has ranked in the top-10 in the state throughout the year in blocks.
“She would have been out there last year,” Capoun said of Schutter. “She is amazing. She stepped it up. She is one of the top blockers in the state as a sophomore, and I think she’s just going to continue to grow.”
Wabaunsee trailed Spearville 25-24 and 26-25 in the first but saved both set points. Wertzberger finished the set with a kill. In the second set, she helped Wabaunsee rebound from a 16-8 deficit with a 13-0 run.
She continually found gaps and angles against the Lancers’ middle block and finished the match with back-to-back kills. Wertzberger delivered multiple tip kills.
“I just tried to see the open spots, and a lot of times they wouldn’t cover on the right,” she said.
Last year, Wabaunsee was a surprising state runner-up as the No. 6 seed. The Chargers finished 15-18 in ’17 and 32-12 in ’18. This fall, Wabaunsee was ranked first in the classification all season. The Chargers earned the No. 3 seed at state and went 41-3, a school record for victories. Wabaunsee captured the first volleyball title in school annals.
“Since the day after, maybe even the road trip home, we were already planning for this year,” Capoun said. “Last year, we had a tough incident with a couple people hurt, so we wanted to come back and prove what the state’s seen us all year with being first place. We wanted to make sure that they knew it wasn’t a fluke. We were going to work our tail off to prove that we could be No. 1.”
On Friday, Wabaunsee finished 3-0 in pool play, including a 29-27, 25-23 win versus Spearville in pool play. In Saturday’s semifinals, Wabaunsee easily defeated Valley Heights, 25-14, 25-22.
Spearville outlasted defending state champion Garden Plain, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, in the other semifinal match that featured raucous crowds on both sides. Spearville (38-4) was the Class 1A state runner-up to Centralia in ’18. GP finished third with a 25-16, 25-15 victory versus Valley Heights.
“They read our defense, too,” Spearville coach Sybil Thompson said of the Chargers. “And they were putting the ball where we were not. We played them (Friday), and they kind of did the same thing. They killed us on tips, so we kind of made an adjustment for making sure we were there to cover tips, and they read the rest of it. So I would say that their team did a great job.”
In the sub-state last week, Hafenstine dove for a ball and chipped two of her front teeth. She remained in the match and still had the chipped front teeth at state.
“Somebody tipped the ball back from the court, and I went running, and I dove after it,” Hafenstine said. “And I hit my chin on the floor, and my teeth hit together, and the front tooth chipped off. I felt with my tongue in my mouth, I felt that I didn’t have any teeth left, and I panicked, but then I was like, ‘There is no blood, I guess I have to keep playing.’”
Hafenstine, with more than 1,500 career digs, has ranked among Kansas’ top dig leaders the last two seasons.
“They are all fighters,” Capoun said. “Alexis, she will not let anything get her down, and she has been the glue of the team. She is helping everyone keep their heads up, and she is making big plays, which actually helps our momentum, so yeah, she is an amazing leader and an incredible libero. She is quick, and she sees it, and she knows, and she is just right on it. I have been saying all year, she is one of top in the state, and I believe it totally.”
Hafenstine delivered 19 digs in the finale, and served the second-set big run that gave the Chargers a 21-16 lead.
“Alexis is an awesome player,” Wertzberger said. “If we didn’t have her, we would be in trouble. She is definitely the best defensive player that we have had in a long time.”
Spearville junior libero Alissa Heskamp tallied 16 digs, but just three in the second set. Lancer 6-foot senior standout Ehlaina Hartman delivered six kills, though all came in the first set.
“Defense, their defense was phenomenal,” Thompson said. “I mean, they were picking up stuff all over the place.”
Wertzberger had a kill for a 22-18 advantage, and then finished out the match with the last two swings.
“The whole team can step it up,” Capoun said. “Man, when we are low, when we are down is when we actually really start pulling together as a team, and I think that’s been our strength all season when we are down, we just move onto the next point, move onto the next point.”
“Madi did a really good job with that, and we worked in that really hard this year as well,” Capoun added. “Not focusing on any of our mistakes or any of the calls by the refs, or any of the injuries or sicknesses or you name it. We just move onto the next point, and that’s what they did.”