For all of its size, power and strength, Free State High's girls volleyball team wrapped up a Senior Night sweep against Lawrence High on Thursday with a tip.
But, hey, a kill is a kill. And a victory is a victory, this one coming in three sets, 25-13, 25-23 and 25-19.
"I went up and saw the tip was open," senior Taylor Manning said. "But I wanted to swing at it so bad. But I didn't not want to get the point so I just tipped it over. As soon as I turned around I told my teammates, 'Well that's a great way to end Senior Night.'"
The final play might not have been ideal, but the Firebirds could not have scripted a better regular-season finale than a three-set sweep of their archrival.
"It's really exciting that we could win on Senior Night," outside hitter Melissa Burch, who led all Free State hitters in kills with seven.
The first head-to-head dual of its kind featured a packed Free State gymnasium and some big-time plays from some of the city's best volleyball players.
LHS jumped to a 3-0 lead in Set 1, but quickly fell out of the hunt when the Firebirds used their size and power to roll to a 12-point victory. Trailing just 15-11 midway through the first set, the Lions were outscored 10-2 the rest of the way. Burch unloaded five straight serves late in the set, and Sierra Dickson and Chantay Caron recorded huge blocks to contribute to the victory.
"That was just a bunch of seniors who didn't want their regular season to end with a loss to LHS," Free State coach Nancy Hopkins said. "They really wanted it tonight."
That much was obvious in Set 2, when the Firebirds trailed throughout the match - including a 23-22 deficit late - but rallied to win, 25-23.
The second set was as much about LHS missing out on opportunities as it was Free State taking control. LHS made errors on the final two points of the second set, including a hot pass that hit the rafters, changed direction and bounced back to the floor on set point.
"That's the story of our season," LHS coach Stephanie Magnuson said. "But it's something we can fix, and it's something we can fix in 24 hours."
The Lions fell behind 2-0 in Set 3, but quickly bounced back and actually led, 9-8, before a 9-1 Free State run turned that score into an 17-10 advantage for the Firebirds. Even in the waning moments of the third set, the Lions scrapped and clawed for points.
"I'm glad we didn't come in here and lay down," junior Jasmyn Turner said. "I'm glad we stuck with them because now we know what it will take on Saturday."
Eight Free State seniors - Manning, Dickson, Burch, Ashleigh Allam, Danielle Augustine, Ali Jacobsen, Chamisa Edmo and Sydney Vogel - went out on a winning note.
Saturday, the two teams will return to the same gym for sub-state, where they'll face off at 2 p.m. in the first round: top-seeded Free State against No. 8 seed LHS.