Olathe This was one call the Lawrence High volleyball players were dying to make.
Moments after the Lions scored the final point to earn a trip to the Class 6A state tournament for the second year in a row on Saturday at Olathe South, the first thing on their minds was dialing up LHS baseball coach Brad Stoll.
Huddled together on the same court in which they just knocked off second-seeded Olathe Northwest in three games (22-25, 25-18 and 25-15), the third-seeded Lions plugged in the proper digits, popped open the speaker phone and sent their message.
“We’re going to state!” they yelled in unison.
At most high schools, there may not seem to be much of a connection between the baseball coach and the volleyball team. At Lawrence High, though, the two have been connected since May, when Stoll’s team won the Class 6A state baseball title.
“As soon as the baseball team won state last year, these girls wanted to follow in their footsteps,” LHS coach Stephanie Magnuson said.
So, throughout the season, Stoll kept his eye on the Lions and their quest to qualify for state. That included a quick chat with the girls Friday to pump them up.
“We got a little pep talk from coach Stoll, and he just said to do it for the seniors,” LHS junior Lillian Schonewise said.
After dispatching Olathe East in two games in the first round (25-23, 25-16), the Lions dropped the first game of the title match, 25-22 to Olathe Northwest and suddenly faced a do-or-die situation for the first time all season.
Not to worry, the Lions responded by outscoring the Ravens 50-34 in the next two games and rolled their way into the state tournament bracket.
“After we lost that first game, we just said, ‘One more hour or six more days,’” Schonewise said. “I think it’s pretty easy to see which one we wanted.”
Added senior Jasmyn Turner: “It wouldn’t have been as emotional or as exciting if we won it in two. This just seemed right.”
Right it was, in just about every way. After losing Game 1, largely because of their own mistakes, the Lions were sharp, sure and dominant during the next two.
The two biggest runs of the day came at different times in vastly different ways. In Game 2, LHS pushed a 15-12 lead to 19-12 thanks to a scrambling save from junior libero Kendyll Severa, a monster block at the net by Turner and an ace serve from Mary Coldsnow. The next run came at the beginning of Game 3 — a 5-1 start set the tone — and served notice that the Lions would not be denied.
The Ravens cut the LHS lead to one, at 5-4 and 7-6, but never got closer, as they simply had no answer for Schonewise, who completely took over the decisive game on both sides of the net. She finished with six kills and three blocks in the third game and helped turn a 12-9 LHS lead into a 19-13 cushion.
“I wasn’t really playing my best so I just told (junior setter) Kiely (Mosiman) to set Lillian,” Turner said. “I needed her to pick me up, and she did.”
The beauty of the Lions’ showing Saturday was that all nine girls who hit the court delivered at least one key play at a crucial time.
“It always takes all nine of us,” Mosiman said. “I can’t tell you how much it helps to know that no one’s afraid to get the ball.”
Next up for the Lions (23-16) is a date at state Friday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. It’s a familiar place for the Lions of old and is becoming a cozy environment for the current group.
“When I took over the program, one of my goals was to get the girls to believe in themselves and believe in their capabilities,” the Lions’ third-year coach said. “Now that we’ve made it to state two years in a row, I think they’re starting to believe. But we’re not just happy to get there again. We expect to make a run.”
Firebirds go out fighting
Free State also traveled to Olathe South for sub-state Saturday, but things did not go quite as well for the fifth-seeded Firebirds.
Free State showed tremendous heart in advancing to the sub-state title game, but ultimately fell to top-seeded Olathe South, 25-22 and 25-20.
Despite coming up just short — after battling to a pair of 25-23 victories against Leavenworth in Round 1 — FSHS coach Nancy Hopkins walked away beaming with pride.
“I had a team that had two people who played varsity last year, and we got the sub-state championship match,” Hopkins said. “Olathe South was 30-4, and we were 16-20, but at least we made them fight for it.”
Free State seniors Alex Mollohan and Chantay Caron came up with big-time kills all afternoon for the Firebirds, who were not intimidated by playing the high-flying Falcons in their home gym. In reality, all five FSHS seniors who played their final matches in green and white turned in top-notch performances Saturday. Katelyn Wyatt was sensational with her serve, Marissa Thibodo was a monster at the net, and Clare Frantz ran the offense well and helped keep the Firebirds calm when they needed it most.
Although Free State’s match went just two games and ended about 30 minutes before Lawrence High polished off Olathe Northwest, the Firebirds stuck around to support their rivals.
“We’re extremely happy for LHS,” Hopkins said. “They’re a great team, and they’re very deserving.”