When Lawrence High senior Jasmyn Turner was a sophomore, she helped the LHS girls basketball team hoist the big trophy at the Class 6A state tournament.
Heading into the tourney in 2008, Turner and the Lions had played four of the seven other teams in the field and had a strong sense of what they were getting into.
Turner, now a standout volleyball player, finds herself in an eerily similar position this week, as the LHS volleyball team prepares for its second straight trip to the Class 6A state tournament. Awaiting the Lions in the eight-team bracket will be six teams they have played this season, including all three in their pool.
“This year I think the difference is that I 100 percent believe we can win,” Turner said. “Last year, I was like, ‘This is cool,’ but I’m not sure I believed that we could actually win. This year, it’s like it was for basketball at state, where it was like, ‘We’re going to win this.’ I’m kind of having that same feeling.”
That’s not Turner being cocky. Confident is the better word for it. Her teammates are on board with her. And why wouldn’t they be? When the Lions hit the floor at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Expocentre in Topeka for the first of three pool play matches in a matter of five hours, they’ll know exactly who’s standing on the other side of the net. According to LHS coach Stephanie Magnuson, who has helped remind them through hours of film this week, having that kind of comfort level with the opponent can only help.
“It definitely gives us an advantage,” Magnuson said. “And the fact that we know that we’ve been beaten by them is huge. Because we know that the video we’re watching of them is them at their best.”
In six matches against the three teams in their pool — Blue Valley West, Maize and Washburn Rural — the Lions finished 1-5, with their lone victory coming against fourth-seeded Blue Valley West (29-10) at the Emporia Invitational in mid-October.
The Lions (22-16) have lost three times to fifth-seeded Maize (30-12) and fell once to top seed Washburn Rural (36-4) during a late-season quadrangular in Topeka.
“We know that we didn’t play at the top of our game when we saw those teams before and we know that if we come out this weekend and play at the top of our game good things can happen,” junior setter Kiely Mosiman said.
As far as No. 8 seeds go, the Lions have to be one of the most confident groups the state tournament has ever seen. Part of that comes from getting to state last year and knowing what the experience is all about. The other part of it comes from the fact that the Lions don’t see seeds when they look at this year’s field. Instead, they see eight teams with equal ability.
“On any given day, any team can come out on top and these eight teams are all very similar, so it’s really going to come down to who’s on that day,” Magnuson said. “As the 8 seed, we know that we’re the underdogs. So I don’t think this group will become overconfident.”
Added LHS junior Lillian Schonewise: “Since we have played them before, we have the confidence and we know we can do it. We just have to push ourselves. But that’s not hard because it’s state.”
Of course, the flip side of the Lions having a good understanding of who they are playing is that their opponents also have the advantage of having seen them in action before. Not to worry, says Mosiman.
“It doesn’t bother me at all that they know our team because we’ve grown so much,” she said. “Even just in the last week, we’ve gotten so much better.”
The Lions will kick off the Class 6A state tourney at 3:30 p.m. with a showdown against Washburn Rural. After that, LHS will face BV West at 6:30 and Maize in the final match of the night at 8:30. The top two teams in Pool A will advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
“I don’t think we could be too comfortable because we’re so focused and we just really want to beat these teams,” senior Alex Kincaid said. “Knowing them like we do, we know they’re going to want to come out and beat us as much as we want to beat them. That’s definitely driving us.”