Lasting legacy: 1990 LHS volleyball team inducted into Hall of Fame
Earlier this summer, the 1990 Lawrence High School volleyball team was inducted into the Kansas Volleyball Association Hall of Fame.
Despite it being nearly 30 years later, and the fact several of the players have since left the area, a total of nine of the 10 players on the team — as well as the manager — made it back for the ceremony. Yet, as special as it was to be recognized, the team believed the reunion was the highlight of the weekend.
“It’s a great honor,” former Lawrence head coach Joan Wells said. “What was special for me was that nine of the 10 players came back from all over the United States. It was special.”
The student-athletes that competed for Lawrence High in 1990 were: Gwen (Mullens) Alden, Heather (Flachsbarth) Ornes, Erin (McElwain) Hellmuth, Megan (Kampschroeder) Laurent, Sarah (Ramsay) Weatherred, Christina McClure, Kelli (Boehringer) Curry, Jennifer Nelson, Casse (Jones) Drummond, Jill (Oelschlager) Mosier. Karen Spencer served as the team’s manager.
But the night before the banquet, Wells, who coached LHS volleyball between 1971-97, hosted the entire team at her place in Lawrence. Wells popped in game film from the team’s state championship match that season.
Members of that unbeaten team became nostalgic while rewatching the win over Manhattan High, which came down to the final point in front of a packed house at LHS.
“Lawrence High hosted it and that doesn’t happen anymore,” said Ornes, who is a personal trainer in Lawrence. “It was really amazing to watch. I can remember it in my head, but the gym was packed because we were an undefeated team. You could hear it on the film, too.”
Entering the 1990 season, the expectation was to ultimately come away with the hardware.
In 1989, the Lions went undefeated en route to a Class 6A state title and returned six seniors. Wells, who won 15 state crowns in 27 years of coaching volleyball, still believes Lawrence also would have won in 1988 if the team’s best player didn’t go down with an injury in the state tournament.
As a result, it was almost a relief for some players when the Lions finished off their 42-0 campaign in 1990.
“We had won state the year before and there really was a lot of pressure that we felt,” said Hellmuth, who is now a director and lead coach for Texas Volleyball Academy. “Every time we got on the court, whoever we were playing was going to give us their best match of the year. It was really fun to feel like we survived it.”
Still, that season will always be considered special among the many successful years of the program’s storied history.
Three seniors from that team ultimately ended up at Division I programs, as college scouts made regular visits to Lawrence for practices and matches. Hellmuth played at Baylor, Ornes went to Arizona and Alden ended up at Missouri. Mosier, who was a sophomore in 1990, chose to play at the University of Iowa. A total of seven players continued to play volleyball at the collegiate level.
During that season, the players also became enthralled by national rankings. They saw their ranking continue to climb with each win, earning a spot as high as No. 9 by Mizuno.
“The thing that was different that year was the fact we were nationally ranked,” Wells said. “About midweek, the rankings would come out in the USA Today sports section. By the end of the season, our goal was to be top 10 and we were ranked ninth. That was really special.”
Wells struggled to give everyone appropriate playing time, and she had to find new ways to get the most out of her squad. But, ultimately, none of that mattered.
“We were very talented and we knew that coming in,” Wells said. “But it was all worth it in the end.”