The Spearville Lancers volleyball team got a wake-up call early in the season with a pair of losses to Great Bend and Kiowa County in a tournament at Dodge City, giving the team a 3-2 record for the young season.
That was a turning point.
The team went on a winning streak that didn't break until it got to the state tournament, where it finished second with a season record of 39-4.
"Our defense and our setters improved tremendously over the season," said Spearville volleyball coach Syble Thompson. "Once the setters were in line, it made a total difference in our play."
Looking back on those pivotal games at the start of the season, Thompson said she blamed herself for those losses because she didn't have her setters prepared.
"It was a wake-up call. We needed to focus on our setters getting the hitters the ball," Thompson said. "It was the turning point. They were very frustrating losses. I felt we had the talent but the girls weren't playing together as a team. We needed to regroup and figure out a game plan."
The Lancers figured it out and didn't lose a single match for the rest of the season until they got into the state tournament.
"I have a great bunch of girls. They do what I want them to do," Thompson said. "They work hard and are successful."
The Lancers faced a major challenge before they started their season, and it was caused by one more student enrolled at school.
Last year, Spearville was a 1A school and took second at state. Thompson said they were more powerful this year than last and expected to do well.
But one more student enrolled at Spearville, moving the district into 2A and meaning a tougher season.
"That was frustrating. We know how much more competitive it is at the 2A level," Thompson said.
But the team responded and after those early losses, the players found their strength and won every game through the rest of the regular season. They found themselves going to state again, and while it was unexpected, they had gained the confidence of champions.
"Getting to the championship was eye opening," Thompson said. "We can do this. We can win the whole thing. It was a great season."
State challenged the Lancers at every game.
Game 1 against Winchester Jefferson County North was a 25-12 and 25-23 victory.
After the dominating victory in the first game, the team let up and got comfortable while Jefferson stepped up and played better.
"We just lost our focus for a while I think," Thompson said.
The second game against Belle Plaine tested the team further when it read the Lancer defense, which was having trouble covering tips.
Each team took a close set but in the third, Spearville made some adjustments and stepped up to do their job, resulting in a 25-20, 23-25, 25-20 victory.
The third game, against Wabaunsee, was an extreme challenge. Although, the Lancers played hard, Wabaunsee dominated tipping the ball and the Lancers had trouble picking up tips. Spearville lost two hard-fought games 27-29 and 23-25.
But the team had fought hard enough to make it into the semifinals. Their first game was against Garden Plain, which went three sets with Spearville coming out on top 25-21, 22-25, 25-23. Garden Plain had great defense, strong hitters and were all over the place.
But the Lancers had momentum. The seniors and younger kids stepped up. Blocking and setting were both very good and the setters did a great job of getting the ball to the hitters, Thompson said.
That put the Lancers in the championship round against the Wabaunsee team that had beaten them in the early rounds. Thompson said the team was excited after its victory over Garden Plain and ready to go.
"Our girls were pumped up. They thought they could win this championship. They were so pumped they were ready to go for it," Thompson said. "We came out with fire and played like we had nothing to lose."
It was an exciting and tough couple of games. It went back and fourth and was mentally exhausting.
But in the end, Wabaunsee proved to be too much and Spearville took home the second-place trophy with 26-28 and 19-25 losses.
Still, the team had a great season, continued to improve, and seniors stepped up to lead the team to a strong 39-4 season.
"All of my seniors are great leaders. They are great kids," Thompson said.
The 2019 Spearville Lancers Volleyball Team: Cassidy Spease-5, Tawney Krominga-10, Alissa Heskamp 11/1, Hannah Gleason-16, Mackenzie Foos-22, Cameron Offerle-23, Elle Weber-24, Ehlaina Hartman-25, Savannah Brownlee-26, Brianna Ede-27, Taige Kliesen-33, Anna Stein-35.
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