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Archive for Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Santa Fe Trail exceeds goals to win state volleyball title

November 8, 2005

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— Tracy Dunnaway is keenly aware of the rich volleyball tradition at Santa Fe Trail High.

As a player, she was part of a Chargers squad that won the state title in 1990. As an assistant to legendary coach Susan Averill, she had a front-row seat for another championship in 1999.

However, having taken over the program herself in the 2002 season, Dunnaway also had witnessed an unsatisfying string dating back to the '99 squad during which Santa Fe Trail failed to regain its lofty status.

So, when she gathered her team together at the outset of the 2005 campaign, there wasn't any grandiose talk about winning state - just qualifying for the final tournament of the season would do.

"Our biggest goal this year was to get out of sub-state, because we hadn't done that in six years," Dunnaway said.

"I think in the last six years it's really been a mental block for us, and this year, the girls put all that aside."

Fast forward three months, and now, more than a week after this year's Class 4A state tournament, the big discussion among the Chargers is where to hang the new banner.

The one reading "2005 State Champs."

"We're still getting recognition, so we know what we've accomplished," said outside hitter Kylie Wiscombe, one of two seniors who closed out her high school volleyball career by hoisting the state trophy on Oct. 29 at Salina's Bicentennial Center. "But I don't think we get how big it is yet."

The Chargers fulfilled their goal of just making the Elite Eight courtesy of their victory one weekend earlier at the Class 4A sub-state gathering at Iola. However, their 26-11 record paled in comparison to the other seven state qualifiers, none of whom had double-digit losses.

"I think we really knew that the people we'd lost to were good, quality teams," Dunnaway said. "So I don't think our 11 losses meant anything to us."

Being the No. 8 seed put Dunnaway's squad on the opposite end of the bracket from both Eudora and Topeka Hayden, two teams that beat Santa Fe Trail earlier in the 2005 season.

"We had no knowledge of anyone in our pool. We knew nothing about any of those teams," said Dunnaway, taking the ignorance-is-bliss approach. "I was very happy with our pool placement."

The Chargers dispatched of No. 1 Girard, No. 4 Clearwater and No. 5 Colby in pool play on Day One of the tournament to reach the Final Four.

That left two personal grudge matches standing in the way of a state title. First, Santa Fe Trail made good on its revenge opportunity with a three-game victory over No. 6 Hayden in the semifinals.

"It's just awesome to beat Hayden. It doesn't matter what it's in," Wiscombe said.

Waiting in the finals was No. 7 Wamego, a rematch of the 1989 state-title showdown that saw the Chargers come out on the short end - their lone loss in Dunnaway's junior season.

"For me, I've got some stuff with Wamego," Dunnaway said.

Her players provided a nice dose of vicarious redemption, pulling out a 25-23, 22-25, 25-16 victory to reinstate the program's place among the Class 4A elite.

It's a position the Chargers may settle into for a while. Eight players will be back next fall to defend their title, including junior middle hitter Brooke Pryor, junior setter Tori Rutter and sophomore outside hitter Emily Forbes, all of whom were named to the state all-tournament team.

Meanwhile, Wiscombe and fellow senior Jenny Hulings, a middle blocker, will move on to college softball careers. However, they already are casting a fond eye toward future homecomings.

"We'll always get to see it in the trophy case when we come back," Hulings said.

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