Lawrence High should be exempt from sub-state volleyball tournaments.
The Lions have paid their dues long enough. For the 25th consecutive year, the Lions qualified for the state tournament with two sub-state victories on Saturday at LHS.
Lawrence beat Shawnee Heights 15-10, 15-12 for a berth into the Class 6A state tournament in Topeka next weekend.
"Postseason is very mental," LHS coach Joan Wells said. "We talked a lot about being up, playing every point as if it were match point."
Lawrence, 27-4 with a 16-match winning streak, struggled against stubborn Shawnee Heights. The Lions led the second game, 12-7, before the T-Birds scored five consecutive points to tie at 12-12.
LHS junior Candice Lahm's tip provided the Lions with a sideout and the Lions scored the final three points, capped by a kill from senior Heidi Kerbel from the left side.
"It seems like sometimes we don't play until we have to," LHS coach Joan Wells said. "In the state tournament, that could be too late."
In the first game against Shawnee Heights, Lawrence trailed 3-0 before taking control with a 9-1 run.
"I thought we had pretty good control," Wells said. "It wasn't a hard match with lots of transitions. The rallies were fairly short."
The Lions beat Topeka in the sub-state opener, 15-6, 15-7.
Kerbel returned to the Lions' lineup after missing Tuesday's triangular because of an injury to her left thumb during last weekend's Sunflower League tournament.
"I'm in pain, but it's something all athletes have to live with I think," said Kerbel, who had her thumb and wrist taped.
Kerbel and her teammates responded to several Shawnee Heights comebacks.
"Once we made a mistake we kind of got down on ourselves," Kerbel said. "It wasn't just one person. Then we all got together, took a deep breath and pulled together."
Before the sub-state final, the LHS players walked onto the court and wore identical hockey masks to represent their "game faces." The Lions removed the masks before warming up.
"We've been talking all week about game faces," Wells said. "One day we went into the locker room, stood in front of the mirror and practiced our game faces."
In the other sub-state at LHS, Leavenworth beat Olathe North, 15-13, 14-16, 15-8, to advance to state.
The Lions likely will be the No. 2 seed at state at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka on Friday and Saturday. If Lawrence is seeded second, its first of three pool-play matches would be at 3:30 p.m. Friday.