In the split Class 4A divisions, a pair of area teams won matches during the state volleyball tournament in Salina.
In 4A-I, the Ulysses Tigers went 2-1 in pool play and advanced to Saturday's second day of the tournament. In 4A-II, the Holcomb Longhorns managed to win a match, but fell in the other two during pool play matches, missing out on advancing to the second day of competition.
Ulysses: Class 4A-I
The script wasn’t exactly the way it was originally drafted, but the Ulysses Tigers volleyball team nonetheless will get to move onto Act 2 of the Class 4A-I state tournament on Saturday.
That’s because the Tigers (31-9) made quick work of Wellington (25-19, 25-15) and El Dorado (25-22, 25-20) in their first two matches of pool play Friday at Salina’s Tony’s Pizza Events Center.
What spoiled the original draft, though, was a knockdown, drag down, three-set marathon loss to No. 2 seed Independence in the final match of the morning/afternoon session.
The Tigers lost that extended match 19-25, 25-17, 25-27, but still garnered the No. 1 seed out of the pool as three teams of the four each went 2-1.
By virtue of of their two-set romps early, the Tigers had enough tiebreaks to earn the No. 1 spot and will now face Rose Hill at 10 a.m. Saturday in one semifinal.
In the other semifinal will be Wellington, which also came out of the Tigers’ pool and will face Louisburg, the only 3-0 team for the day in the two pools.
But for coach Jill Scott, all that really mattered was that her team will be playing on Saturday.
“I think in those first two matches, we just came in and had a plan, and for the most part executed it,” Scott said in a telephone interview. “We did what we needed to do.”
Scott said it wasn’t the elite performance she had seen from her team a week ago at the sub-state when they rolled by powerhouse McPherson to earn their first trip to state in a quarter century.
“I don’t think we let the location, the big arena bother us,” Scott said. “With that said, we still didn’t play our best.”
At one point, Scott had to remind her team that they were in good shape and not get too worried about things they couldn’t control.
“We haven’t looked great, but we’ve been good enough,” Scott said she told her team. “I think we were just able to stay in the fight in all the games and points.”
And despite the tough loss to end the pool play session, Scott said she was happy to have time to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s semis.
“We’re right where we wanted to be — coming out as the top seed from our pool — and I think if we come out with the fire that we had last week, good things are gonna happen,” Scott said.
The third-year coach said by the time they stepped on the court for the Indy finale, she had figured out the number for all tiebreaker scenarios.
“A lot of different things could play out, but I had a good idea we were in good shape,” Scott said. “We started out from behind against Indy, and I liked our fight throughout. It says something that we didn’t play our best, and still came out in good shape.”
Holcomb: Class 4A-II
For the third time in a row at the state tournament, the No. 4 Holcomb Longhorns (36-7) failed to advance past pool play as the Longhorns went 1-2 and finished third in Pool I Friday night in Salina.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that we are not going to play on Saturday, but I’m still really proud of these girls,” said head coach Jennifer Barrett.
“Not many are going to give the girls the credit they deserve, and many questioned if they could make it to to state again, but we knew we could make it to this stage again and credit goes to these girls on how hard they worked this season to get here."
Holcomb opened pool play by facing the returning state champion and fifth seeded Topeka-Hayden Wildcats. The Wildcats took the opening match 25-12, 25-11.
“We knew Topeka-Hayden would be solid," Barrett said. "They were returning state champions and they were as good, if not better, than last year”
It wasn’t just Topeka-Hayden that would be a difficult matchup.
“Once you reach this level, all these teams are solid and we knew that each game was going to be tough," Barrett said.
Holcomb did set a bit of history Friday night. With the win over Baldwin (25-12, 25-11), the Longhorns won their first game in a state tournament since 1998. In their previous three trips to the state tournament, the Longhorns were a combined 0-9.
Barrett knows this is a big achievement.
“This is still a big step forward for our program and that was a goal we set at the beginning of the season," Barrett said.
In the last game of the evening, the Longhorns had an opportunity to clinch a spot in the semifinals on Saturday, but the came up short against No. 1-seeded Wichita Trinity Academy.
Although the Longhorns dropped two matches on Friday, Barrett liked what she saw from her team.
“We came out looser than we had before," Barrett said. "We also had a good positive attitude. We were concentrated and excited to be here.”
Barrett also looks back at the season as a success.
“For the team to have another 30 win season, which makes it the second one in a row, that’s is a great achievement by this team," Barrett said.
The Longhorns will be losing eight senior girls to graduation this year.