CIMARRON — The host Bluejays were hoping their end-of-season fortune would continue one more week.
After nearly winning the Hi-Plains League tournament at home last weekend from a seventh seed, Cimarron hosted the Class 3A sub-state volleyball tournament Saturday.
And darned if they didn’t almost pull off the unthinkable.
In the end, they had to settle for runner-up again, falling in straight sets to the fifth-seeded Hoisington Cardinals, 25-20, 25-15.
And it’s not like they didn’t have their chances.
Leading the first game 18-11, the ‘Jays saw that lead disappear in a huge change of momentum as junior Bailey Sanders rode her jump serve to help her team get back to within a point at 18-17.
Taylor Boxberger then served her team to within a point of a win, which they got on Cimarron’s final serve, completing a 14-2 turnaround to take the opening set and stun the Bluejays.
Things remained close in game two. After Cimarron built an 8-3 lead, Hoisington came back with seven straight points.
The Cardinals rode that momentum to a 15-6 final run to claim the title and advance to the state tournament this weekend in Hutchinson, ending Cimarron’s season at 16-20.
Coach Ingrid Dumler, disappointed in defeat, had nothing but praise for a team that struggled to find itself early in the season but got on track when it mattered most.
“We just tried to build grit all season and work together,” Dumler said. “All season we’ve worked to get the magical combination.”
It also helped to get senior Taylor Jantz back late in the season. She had been out with a knee injury since basketball season.
“Our seniors really stepped up and led us at the end,” Dumler said. “They did awesome. I’m so proud of them.”
Earlier in the day, Cimarron took its opening match against Goodland in two close sets before facing Holcomb in the semifinals.
In that match, the Longhorns won the first set easily, 25-12.
But the ‘Jays charged out strong in set two, 25-20.
In the final set, down 10-5, Cimarron went on two major runs to go up 18-12 and 23-16, holding off a late ‘Horns charge to get the 25-23 win.
“That’s just volleyball. The momentum can swing. I just think these girls just have a lot of grit,” Dumler said. “We went through a lot of adversity halfway through the season to develop it, but they did it.”
Hoisington entered the tournament 13-24, but Dumler described them as scrappy.
“They played phenomenal defense. It was very hard to find a hole on the court against them,” she said.
Top-seeded Scott City won two close sets against Larned, 25-20 and 25-23 before facing Hoisington in the semis.
The Beavers dropped the first set, 25-15, and fought back in the second, before falling, 25-22.
Scott City finished 26-11.
In Ingalls Saturday, the top-seeded South Gray Rebels won four easy sets en route to a Class 1A state berth.
The Rebels (28-11) had a bye in the first round of play, before routing fourth-seeded Rolla, 25-12, 25-14, in the semifinals. That matched South Gray up with second seed Satanta in the final, but that was all South Gray.
The Rebels won 25-17, 25-16 to punch their ticket to state at Emporia's White Auditorium on Friday and Saturday. The Rebels begin pool play with a 11 a.m. matchup with second seed Spearville (40-0).