A few hundred fans filled the Free State High gymnasium last Wednesday night for what Central Junior High athletic director Scott Forkenbrock called "the marquee event" of the junior high volleyball season.
Yes, that said "junior high" and "Wednesday night."
The four Lawrence junior high ninth-grade teams met at 6 p.m. last Wednesday for the all-city quadrangular. It was the only prime time event in the volleyball season.
Southwest, the defending champions, went undefeated on the night to win again. The other three teams traded wins and losses and finished in a three-way tie for second place.
Whether it was because of the nighttime matches, the bustling crowd or the rivalry, the players were pumped.
"We've won other games, but this is bigger," Erica Demby, South Cougar, said. "There's more competition all at once."
That competition meant everyone needed to be playing their best.
"It seems to be this Quad that everyone gets up for," Kim Henrichs, coach of the Central Mustangs, said. "The kids all know each other and enjoy competing."
Patty Coffey, Southwest Bulldogs coach, said the friendships among the different teams add another dynamic to the rivalry.
"They want to beat each other really badly. But they're all friends and afterward they hug," Coffey said. "Even though they're competing, they're still part of a community."
Parents enjoyed being part of the quad also.
The junior high teams play all of their other matches right after school on weekdays. A time when the majority of parents are still at work.
"It's an opportunity to have the parents see the kids play more than just one match," South Kathy Stuntz said.
Dave Smith is the father of two West Warhawks, Megan and Emily. He and Coffey agreed: playing at night is better than playing during the day.
"It's easier for the parents to get here," Coffey said. "Alumni get to come back and watch, and the football team will come and paint themselves."
Coffey said the quad was great for school spirit, as well as preparation for the high school atmosphere.
The quad is an offshoot of an old end-of-season tournament that used to invite 10 teams, including all of the Lawrence junior highs.
Back then, there were only three city teams, though.
Stuntz said when South split from the old Southwest, it was only natural for a city-only match to come about.
With the success of the vent, the ninth-graders are not the only players to get a shot at city bragging rights.
The eighth-grade teams will meet at 6 p.m., Monday in the Free State gymnasium for their own city quad.