By CONOR NICHOLL
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — The Ingalls High School volleyball team didn't make it out of pool play at the Class 1A, Division II state tournament Friday at Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum. However, Ingalls had plenty to be proud of - both with the season and its play Friday.
"We played as good as we could have," Ingalls coach Kim Batman said.
Ingalls went 1-2 in pool play and finished third behind perennial powerhouses Baileyville B&B and Wheatland-Grinnell. B&B is the No. 1 overall seed and defending state champion. Wheatland-Grinnell was state runner-up two years ago. Those teams qualified to Saturday's semifinals.
Still, Ingalls pushed those teams. The Bulldogs lost 25-20, 23-25, 25-12 to Wheatland-Grinnell in the day's first match and then defeated McPherson-Elyria Christian 25-14, 25-18. In its last match, Ingalls dropped the first set, 25-11, to B&B. At that point, even if Ingalls came back to win the match, it had virtually no chance to pass B&B and Wheatland-Grinnell on tiebreakers.
Still, the Bulldogs, with three seniors and three freshmen on the floor, rebounded to win the second set, 25-23.
"To come back and win the second match was just incredible," Batman said.
Then, it lost the third set, 23-15. Ingalls, the No. 4 seed, finished 31-11.
"I was really proud of them," Batman said. "They did awesome. ... I think we always thought we had the potential (to make state). It's just whether the chemistry was on on the day that we were playing. Because we can play incredibly well, or we can play not so well. But the girls just need to learn to have fun."
In the first match, Ingalls led 9-6 in the third set against Wheatland-Grinnell, but the Thunderhawks finished on a 19-3 run. Wheatland-Grinnell consistently delivered kills from the left side, as Ingalls had trouble shifting its block.
"We always said, 'They get one serve,'" Thunderhawk all-state senior setter Brooke Ostmeyer said. "We always try to sideout as soon as we can. If we mess up, we don't let it bother us."
Junior Tristan Rathgeber collected seven kills in the third set for the Thunderhawks.
"We didn't block her as well as we should have, and we weren't covering exactly where we should have either," Batman said.
Against B&B, Ingalls had what Batman called "some chemistry issues." Ingalls' three freshmen included one who hadn't seen much playing time.
"We had to work through those," Batman said. "End of the first set, there was a lot of friction on the team. Made a few changes and the girls really pulled together and they wanted to win, and represent our school very well, so we wanted to finish strong. We didn't want to end the year on a bad note."