Few could blame Free State High’s volleyball players if they had started to think somebody, somewhere had it in for them.
First, the Firebirds were forced to play the first half of their season away from home.
When, a full month into the season, they finally returned to the friendly confines of the FSHS gym for their home opener, it just happened to coincide with an away football game and the City Showdown in soccer, across town at Lawrence High. With the Firebird faithful so far flung, the usually raucous volleyball crowd was a bit tame by comparison.
And then, for good measure, there was the competition. Rather than draw any old schlubs, the Firebirds had to face Sunflower League co-leaders Olathe East and Olathe South.
“It was frustrating,” FSHS junior libero Paige Corcoran said after the Firebirds dropped both matches Thursday. “But I was happy it was finally here, and we were able to play here. It’s frustrating, but it’s out of our hands.”
Free State fell to Olathe East, 25-21, 25-23, and O-South, 16-25, 25-23, 25-16.
O-East all but clinched the Sunflower League title with a dynamic 25-14, 19-25, 32-30 victory over the Falcons.
“It was tough, but we fought, and we competed to the end,” FSHS senior middle blocker Morgan Knapp said. “We were excited for our first home game. We wanted to come out and show our fans how good we could play. It stinks it turned out like it did, but we played hard. We made some mistakes, but I think we got better in the end.”
“We definitely improved tonight,” Corcoran added. “We definitely proved we can play with those teams.”
Those teams were no slouches. Olathe East improved to 14-2 overall, 9-0 in the league, and is riding a 15-match winning streak. O-South moved to 13-3, 8-1, after having its eight-match win streak halted.
Free State, meanwhile, fell to 8-13, 4-5.
“Honestly, I thought we could have won both matches,” Firebirds coach Nancy Hopkins said. “But that’s kind of how our season has gone. We get out ahead, but we’re not able to finish. When we’re firing on all cylinders, we’re pretty good. We just can’t maintain it.”
FSHS will hit the road again for a triangular Oct. 10 at Leavenworth.