By BRETT MARSHALL
LAKIN — Three of the eight teams at Saturday's Class 3A sub-state volleyball tournament came from the newly-formed Great West Activities Conference and were hoping for a showdown in the championship match.
Goodland was the only team from the conference to make it that far after Holcomb fell in the quarterfinals and Scott City lost in the semifinals.
That left the Cowgirls — the No. 3 seed — to carry the GWAC flag and carry it they did, knocking off top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Southwestern Heights (21-25, 25-19, 25-22) to earn their trip to Friday's state tournament.
For Heights, it was a costly loss as they not only lost the title match, but also senior Deni Jacobs, the 5-11 middle hitter who also is one of the top basketball players in southwest Kansas.
Midway through the first set with Goodland, Jacobs crashed to the floor in agony, grabbing her left knee that had already been injured a year ago and reports are that she broke her left leg.
Goodland and Scott City had battled the Saturday before at the GWAC tournament in Ulysses with the Cowgirls earning the league title on a tiebreaker with games won.
For the Lady Beavers, their 25-17, 25-22 hard-fought victory over Holcomb was the third time in four matches they have come out on top against the Lady Longhorns.
That momentum carried over to the semifinals for their match against Heights and it showed as they prevailed in the first set, 25-23. In two previous meetings this season, coach Jordan Shay's Lady Beavers had gone three sets before falling to the Mustangs.
But after the first set win, Shay's team struggled as Heights rolled 25-16, 25-14 to advance to the finals against Goodland.
The Cowgirls had upset No. 2 seed and highly-regarded Hoisington in its semifinal (26-24, 18-25, 25-21) after opening up with a 25-12, 25-23 win over Lakin in their quarterfinal match.
"They're one of the hardest hitting teams we have faced all year," Shay said of Heights. "I think Deni and Heidi (Brown) realized they had to step up and they did. They are a very talented team."
Shay said that her senior-laden team (seven) played tenatively in the final two sets against Heights.
"I think that third game we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win," Shay said. "We weren't the same passing team that we've been most of the year and in that first game. We've been good at that all year but we weren't today."
Finishing her first year at the Scott City helm, Shay saw her team finish with a 25-14 record while Holcomb's Jennifer Barrett, also completing her inaugural year of coaching the Lady Longhorns, saw her senior-dominated group finish at 21-15.
"It's a bit disappointing to see it end this way, but the girls fought hard today and played hard all season," Barrett said. "We've got some good young players coming up and so I'm really excited about next year."