The Spearville Royal Lancers girls volleyball team ended their season as Kansas Division 1A State Runners-Up Saturday, falling to the Centralia Panthers 25-14, 25-21 in the State Championship Match.

The Lancers opened Saturday by beating Olpe 25-15, 25-22 in the semifinal.

Spearville led 1-0 in both sets against Centralia, but in the end just couldn’t overcome a the same team that beat South Central last year in the 1A DI State Championship.

It’s rare for a coach to be happy finishing in second place, but Spearville head coach Syble Thompson said this was an exception.

“Normally I’m not happy with second place but I am extreme happy with this second-place (finish) because the team that we played against were phenomenal,” Thompson said. “I mean they had power, they had quickness, they had speed, they were a great team and I am just so proud of each and every one of my girls. So this second-place I am smiling for. I’ve got my head up and I am just excited for it.”

Some of that talent came on both sides of the Centralia front row, where senior Madison Lueger and junior Kennedy Becker both slammed home kills for the Panthers.

Yet the Centralia defense was also potent, and it was led by 5-foot, 6-inch freshman libero Avery Deters, who went down nearly into splits on multiple plays, preventing Spearville kills.

Her athleticism, combined with that of Spearville sophomore Alissa Heskamp, made for a dual between two great, young liberos.

The Lancers also got strong performances from seniors of their own, particularly including Sarae Ricke and Gracie Bates. Juniors Ehlaina Hartman and Mackenzie Foos also were key for the Lancers making it to the Championship match. Against Olpe, Junior Brianna Ede had multiple key kills, as did junior Taige Kliesen.

In the end, Spearville just didn’t quite have enough to come out on top against Centralia.

Despite losing the final match, however, Thompson said this year was a great year for the Lancers.

“I wasn’t quite sure how good we really were because competition in western Kansas isn’t as strong as the eastern part of the state and I knew that we’d always have to get to that point, so I wasn’t really sure how good our girls were until we actually got here and we saw some teams from other parts of the state,” Thompson said.

Some of those teams Spearville played in the State Tournament were really good, she said.

“I don’t think that there was one game that we played this weekend that was not intense, and we had to be intense,” Thompson said.

Saturday night, the Kansas Volleyball Association announced its 2018 State All Tournament Team. Four members of Centralia were selected, including Lueger, Becker and Deters. The only other team in the final four with as many was Spearville.

Lancers selected to the All Tournament Team included (in alphabetical order):

- Senior Gracie Bates
- Junior Ehlaina Hartman
- Sophomore Alissa Heskamp
- Junior Taige Kliesen