Volleyball is an underrated sport to watch in person.
If you haven't been to a volleyball game between good or great teams at either the college or high school level, you've been missing out, and I think you should go to one. Honestly, go to any volleyball game you can find nearby that involves organized school teams. The more you understand it, the more likely you are to like it.
But I digress. What I actually wish to share with you are some observations I had from some coverage-area teams I got to watch Tuesday night.
This is not an all-inclusive list, just what stuck out to me the most Tuesday night when I got to watch Cimarron, Satanta, and Spearville play.
The Cimarron Bluejays held their own in their two matches Tuesday. They took an improving Satanta team into added points in the first set, forcing Satanta to win 26-24, rather than win by scoring 25 due to the rule you have to win by two.
In set two, they held their own also, scoring three straight after going down 24-20 to get to 24-23 before the Indians scored the winning point to end it 25-23.
It was a good effort by the Bluejays. They had some moments when they committed small mistakes that caused opponents to get free points, but it's still early and everyone has things to improve.
The Bluejays also played Spearville. At times, they held their own against the Lancers also, especially in the second set. Part of that was that Spearville made some mistakes much like Cimarron did, little things like hitting the ball into the net, which all sides need to clean up, but part of it also was that they had stretches where they played really well. We'll see how they develop as the season goes along.
The Satanta Indians looked good as well at times, but like everyone else who played, they ran into the buzzsaw that was Spearville Tuesday night.
They eventually fell in straight sets, but battled back and forth with Spearville through the first set. Spearville came out in set two as if they had been personally offended by the first set being as close in the end as 25-9. The Lancers took a 7-1 lead early and an 8-2 lead through the first 10 points. The Indians didn't give up though, and battled to within four at 12-8, before eventually losing 25-13. It may not have mattered on the final scoreboard, but there were glimpses of some toughness there.
Against Cimarron, Satanta pulled out an extremely gritty first-set win, scoring back-to-back points after Cimarron tied it at 24-24 to pull out a 26-24 vicotry.
Any team that has youth like they do (11 freshmen or sophomores to nine upperclassmen and only four seniors) and that doesn't give up like that, has potential to grow into a force. I think they have that potential if they work hard.
My biggest takeaways from Tuesday, however, relate to Spearville, which won every set it played Tuesday night.
First off, to the "bad" news: This team didn't look perfect Tuesday. Like anyone else, they have kinks to work out.
For instance, the Lancers showed Tuesday that they can have stretches where they don't play a real clean game, making little mistakes that cost them points in small bunches. For example, in the first set against Western Plains/Healy, the Lancers led 24-8 but allowed three straight points before scoring again to win 24-11.
In the second set against Cimarron, Spearville seemed to play almost too relaxed, and Cimarron, which trailed at that point one set to zero, dug in to try and force a third set. Spearville led 3-0 at early, but Cimarron tied it at 4-4. Spearville rebuilt a three-point lead at 8-5, but Cimarron scored back-to-back points to make it 8-7.
Spearville made it 9-7 but took a timeout themselves.
The combination of what looked like occasionally-overly-relaxed play helped Cimarron stay in it against them. That didn't come back to bite the Lancers Tuesday. Maybe it wouldn't have happened at all if they were closer score-wise at the end of a set than they were most of the night (they ended every set Tuesday up by at least 12, and as much as up 22). But full-game intensity is something every coach works at. It's one thing they'll at least want to watch for based on what I think I saw Tuesday night.
That's the not-great news for the Lancers.
That's it: They're a human team of athletes who I think will probably get better as the season goes on instead of being perfect right from the start.
That was about all I could come up with.
The good news, however, is that this team already looks dangerous.
If you like volleyball, they're a good option to watch. One of many in their league and in Kansas, but definitely a top-tier choice.
Spearville beat Western Plains/Healy 25-11 in set one, then did it again by a score of 25-3. They led 23-1 at one point, but even if you discount that match, and you just evaluate them based on how they did against fellow Southern Plains - Iroquois Activities Association school Satanta and host-school Cimarron, the Lancers looked good.
There were multiple points, especially against Cimarron, where the Lancers and their opponents got into long volleys with multiple returns per side. In all but a couple cases, they ended up holding their ground as long as it took to the get the point.
Key to that was junior Ehlaina Hartman. If you were in the building that night while the Lancers were playing, she was almost impossible to miss. She's tall and strong, and against opposing defenders along the net, her kills were basically lethal.
Even in the case of when opponents had enough height to get up with her to block her hits, her strength allowed the ball to bounce off the hands of blockers and onto their own side of the net far more often than back toward Hartman. In a couple cases when blocks on her were successful, Hartman showed the reflexes to take a blocked ball and pass it to a teammate to keep the offense running.
She'll be a real challenge for opponents throughout the league, and anyone who faces her.
Another was Gracie Bates. She doesn't have quite the size Hartman has, but Tuesday night, she was all over the place recording kills seemingly whenever Hartman wasn't.
Between the two, (and there were many but those two explicitly stuck out to me), and the way the Lancers seemingly overpowered their opponents Tuesday night, it'll be a real fun team to watch in a league that includes Kiowa County and South Central.
If you're in Dodge City, you'll have a chance to. The Lancers head to Dodge City High School Field House for a quad that also includes the Red Demons, the Great Bend Panthers and the Kiowa County Mavericks Sept. 4.