Seabury Academy athletics director Brian Clyne doesn't know if the powers-that-be who run the Kansas State High School Activities Assn. will be impressed, but the Seahawks added a new line to their rmast week: state champions.
Seabury a small, private school currently located between Lawrence and Eudora in the old Kaw Valley Elementary School won the Kansas Christian Assn. state volleyball title last Thursday in Wichita.
It was the first state championship in the 412-year-old school's history, and it came just a few weeks before Clyne will make the school's case to join the KSHSAA.
"I think it's a great experience for the girls," Clyne said. "To go down and play in that tournament atmosphere and play a lot of teams they haven't seen was a great experience. And they just cruised through it."
Seabury didn't drop a game at the 11-team tournament. The Seahawks beat Topeka Heritage Christian, 15-4, 15-9; Liberal Fellowship Baptist, 15-5, 15-12; and, in the championship match, Newton Christian, 15-6, 15-2.
"I think what's most important is that people are starting to feel good about the school and our accomplishments," Seabury junior Anne Stella said. "We have a new headmaster and there were a lot of changes. Then we did well in volleyball. I really don't think my perspective is too clear. I just wanted to win. I didn't think about the fact we'd be the first team to win state for Seabury. But to have the headmaster and the teachers and the school pull together the way they did made me realize what a good thing we did."
Twelve matches into the season, a state championship was the farthest thing from Stella's mind. At that point, the Seahawks had struggled to a 6-6 record.
Seabury, under first-year coach Tracy Kitson, has just eight players on its volleyball roster four juniors and four freshmen. It won its final 10 games to finish 16-6.
Included in that record was a 4-3 mark against larger public schools like McLouth, Leavenworth Immaculata, Kansas City Schlage and KC Harmon.
"It was so exciting to win a tournament, period," said Stella, whose sister, Elise, is a freshman on the team. "We were so happy to come out No. 1. We were more excited about finishing the season 16-6. There were a couple of new girls, and I was one of them. The first part of the season was hard because we were learning. About midseason, we learned we could play with anybody."
The Seahawks went to school Friday and were touched by the school's response.
"I couldn't believe," Kitson said, "the number of people we had congratulating us."
"We were all in shock," Anne Stella added. "We wore our uniforms to school, and everybody congratulated us."
Clyne attended the tournament and nearly wept.
"I had tears in my eyes," he said. "I sat back and just watched the girls enjoy it. The girls came up and gave me a hug. It's just a great feeling, but it's only a step."
The next step comes next month, when Clyne will meet with the KSHSAA's executive board and state his case for the Seahawks' joining the KSHSAA. He'll return in December for another meeting and should be told by the end of the season whether Seabury can compete in KSHSAA's Class 1A next season.
"The basic things they want to know is if we're fully accredited, which we are, and whether we have fully certified coaches, which we do," Clyne said. "Other things the look at are, what kind of schedule do we play and what kind of facilities do we have and are we doing things in the way certified state schools are doing them. We're already trying to follow KSHSAA policy now, so it shouldn't be a big step for us.
"Are we ahead of schedule? People tell me we are. But I want to be further ahead of where we are. We've been an 'approved' school (by the KSHSAA) for years, and I know some schools don't want to be full KSHSAA members. But as far as I'm concerned, it's like accreditation for the school. You want your athletics department to have that stamp."