Ingalls volleyball state-bound
Last time Lady Bulldogs advanced was 1978.
By BRETT MARSHALL
It's been more than a quarter century since the Ingalls Lady Bulldogs volleyball team has made a trip to the state tournament.
That drought, unlike the weather-related one experienced in southwest Kansas in recent years, will be over on Friday when coach Kim Batman, in her second tenure coaching the team, takes her 30-9 squad to Hays for the Class 1A-Division II state tourney at Gross Memorial Coliseum on the Fort Hays State University campus.
According to Batman, it is believed to be the first state tournament in volleyball since the team advanced in 1978.
The Lady Bulldogs earned the overall No. 4 seed and thus are in Pool I of the eight-team tournament. On Friday, they will play a round-robin against Wheatland/Grinnell (29-9) at 9:30 a.m., the No. 8 seed Elryia Christian of McPherson (16-18) at 11:30 a.m. and Baileyville (35-5), the overall No. 1 seed, at 1:30 p.m.. In Pool II, teams include Argonia (34-5), Southern Coffey County (16-17), Wilson (31-5) and Weskan (26-12). The top two teams from each pool on Friday will advance to Saturday's 10 a.m. semifinals, with the winners facing off for the state championship.
For Batman, the season has been all about integrating a couple of freshmen, one of which is her daughter, Kaisha, with a junior and three senior veterans. The combination has worked for the Lady Bulldogs, as they have beaten rival Bucklin and finished second at the tough Hodgeman County tournament, where they lost to state-bound 2A Hill City. They won the Moscow Invitational, as well, but four of those nine losses came to another Southern Plains/Iroquois League powerhouse, Spearville.
"We just could never get past Spearville," Batman said of their matches with the Lady Royal Lancers. "I think at some point, it got to be psychological because we kept playing them closer."
With Rebecca Wyatt, a 5-9 junior, and Tara Whipple, a 5-5 senior, at the outside hitting positions, Batman said the team has utilized its athletic skills to its advantage.
"Both of them are strong hitters, and we have a setter (senior Madison Sandoval) who does a good job of getting them the ball."
Deisy Estrada is the third senior on the team, while Hope Beach is the second freshman in the lineup.
"The strength has been the strong leadership of the seniors," Batman said. "They've taken the younger players under their wings and I think its made the freshmen adjustment that much easier. They're teaching them things they need to do on the court all the time. It's just been a good mix."
In the sub-state finals on Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves in the unenviable position of losing the first set to Moscow, 26-24, in the championship match.
"We hadn't played that well in the first match (25-20, 25-21 over Rolla) and we were still playing sluggish," Batman said. "We couldn't find the right chemistry. We had lost to Bucklin in the sub-state finals a year ago and I told the girls I didn't want a reoccurrence of that. I told them to go out and have some fun, to relax, and then they started playing well. When they relax, they play well."
Batman, in her fifth season of her second tenure as head coach, said coaching her daughter has been a fun experience for both.
"My dad coached my brother and he told me that it could be difficult," Batman said. "But this has been good and I think she's done well adjusting to me. We seem to be handling it well."