Archive for Friday, October 27, 2006

Lions relish volleyball draw

As last seed, LHS players embrace spoiler role

October 27, 2006


Amanda Weishaar would normally be sitting in her creative writing class, penning a literary masterpiece.

Teammates Emily Renfro and Sydnei Tolefree would typically be listening to former Lawrence High volleyball coach Jo Huntsinger lecture about human anatomy and physiology.

Such are the usual 8:30 a.m. locations for the three LHS seniors on Fridays this fall.

Today, that trio will find itself in a much different educational setting at that early hour - learning the ins and outs of State Volleyball 101.

Lawrence High's surprising run to this year's Class 6A state volleyball tournament comes to fruition soon after sunup today at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka as the Lions (12-24) square off against Sunflower League foe Olathe South (30-4) - the top seed and defending 6A state champion - in an 8:30 tip.

Matches against Maize (28-11) and Wichita-Haysville Campus (27-11) are also on today's pool-play docket as LHS looks to continue its Cinderella postseason run as the No. 8 seed in the eight-team field.

6A volleyball

What: Class 6A state volleyball tournament Where: Topeka Expocentre Today's schedule

Court A 8:30 a.m. - No. 1 Olahte South (30-4) vs. No. 8 Lawrence High (12-24) 9:30 a.m. - No. 4 Maize (28-11) vs. No. 5 Wichita-Haysville Campus (27-11) 10:30 a.m. - Olathe South vs. Haysville Campus 11:30 a.m. - Maize vs. Lawrence 12:30 p.m. - Olathe South vs. Maize 1:30 p.m. - Haysville Campus vs. Lawrence

Court B 8:30 a.m. - No. 2 Washburn Rural (31-9) vs. No. 7 Blue Valley West (21-15) 9:30 a.m. - No. 3 Shawnee Mission West (29-9) vs. No. 6 Manhattan (25-14) 10:30 a.m. - Washburn Rural vs. Manhattan 11:30 a.m. - Shawnee Mission West vs. Blue Valley West 12:30 p.m. - Washburn Rural vs. Shawnee Mission West 1:30 p.m. - Manhattan vs. Blue Valley West

NOTE: Top two teams from each bracket will advance to Saturday's 10 a.m. semifinals, followed by consolation and championship matches.

"We were just talking (Wednesday) about how it sucks having to wait and the anticipation," Weishaar said about the time elapsed since the Lions' triumph at last Saturday's sub-state tournament. "So it's great having the first day of the game and getting right out."

"It's a good thing," added Renfro who, unlike Weishaar and Tolefree, didn't suit up during Lawrence High's last state tournament appearance in 2004. "We're a young team, and we won't have everybody sitting around thinking about it."

True enough, the last thing the Lions need is any extra time to dwell on the overwhelming odds they now face as the lone state qualifier with a sub-.500 record.

No one expected LHS to still be playing on the final weekend of the season - including the Lions themselves. After struggling to simply reach the double-digit mark in victories during the regular season, they found the proverbial lightning in a bottle, upsetting both Olathe Northwest and Free State last weekend to nab a state berth.

Now, they'll need Lady Luck to make an encore appearance if they hope to survive today's three matches and stick around for Day Two of the state gathering. And to their credit, in their quest to make it happen, the Lions aren't putting up any false bravado or pulling the disrespect card out of the deck.

Instead, they're embracing their place in the "us against the world" corner seemingly everyone else wants to paint them in.

"We're in a really great position. We're going into (today) with no one expecting us to do anything," Renfro said. "People think it was pure, dumb luck that we got (to state)."

"Our goal is just to upset people all day (today)," Tolefree added. "Our motto is, 'There's nothing to lose.'"

The Lions are even saying all the right things about their murderous Day One schedule that, in addition to trading eggs and bacon for digs and aces, offers up arguably the state's best team in the opening match.

Not exactly the best way for a young team that many believe doesn't belong to get its state tournament feet wet, right?

"If I had the choice of a schedule, it would go exactly as it is," said LHS coach Molly LaMere, who served as an assistant to Huntsinger on the 2004 team before taking over the program last fall. "I'm really excited to see them compete and play against Olathe South, play hard and get warmed up for the next two matches."

Besides, like her players, LaMere figures the best way to keep their sudden success going is to keep things simple and enjoy the ride.

"I think the girls are just so fired up to play and see how it's going to be," she said. "We're ready to play."


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