Garden City makes Final Four

Brad Nading
Garden City High School's Melody Flores goes up for a kill against Dodge City earlier this season. The Buffaloes advanced to the Class 6A Final Four with a win on the road Tuesday at Derby.

Garden City High School’s volleyball team has made it to the Final Four.

The Buffaloes traveled to Derby on Tuesday for a best 3-of-5 match to determine who would be making the trip to Salina on Friday for the Class 6A state tournament. It took GCHS the full five sets to win the match, 22-25, 15-25, 25-17, 25-11 and 15-11.

The tournament has normally had eight teams making making the trip for a two-day tournament, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, KSHSAA reduced the number to four teams for 2020 being at the state site, and reducing the tournament to one day.

With a history of starting slow in matches, Garden City coach Trista Bailey was encouraged by how competitive the team was in the first set, putting themselves in a position to win the first set.

“In set two, Derby completely took us out of our game,” Bailey said. “Everything that could go wrong, did. We lacked confidence and urgency, and made way too many areas.”

Bailey said that between the second and third sets, the coaches re-evaluated the game plan to capitalize on the Buffaloes’ strengths and not try to out swing Derby.

“They have heavy arms on both the pins, but our middles are both capable of scoring, too,” Bailey said. “So we decided we were going to work inside out on offense and get our middles activated early in hopes that we could free up our outsides. When it worked, we never looked back.”

Julie Calzonetti ended the match with 16 kills to lead Garden City and Melody Flores put away 12. Abby Ellerman had nine in the match while McKenna Jagels and Symone Simmons each had five kills. Calzonetti also had two service aces and Gisselle Gutierrez had one.

On the defensive side, Abby Parr led the Buffaloes with 26 digs and Flores had 20. Jagels finished the match with 14 and Calzonetti had 12. Gutierrez and Mya Cruz each had eight digs and Ellermann added three.

Jagels and Flores each had two blocks in the match and Ellermann had one.

“The pure grit this team showed is something to be commended,” Bailey said. “They could have easily quit and called it good enough, but they didn’t. They believed, they fought and they persevered.”

Garden City, now 20-13 overall, will face Blue Valley West at 10:45 a.m. Friday in its first round-robin pool play match at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. The bracketed semifinals and finals will begin at 3 p.m.

Teams reaching the Final Four for Class 6A include, Garden City, Olathe Northwest, Washburn Rural and Blue Valley West.