Wheatland-Grinnell tops Weskan for third
Published on -10/28/2012, 7:47 PM
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Wheatland-Grinnell High School volleyball team had a few tears after it lost to Argonia in the Class 1A, Division II state tournament semifinals, 25-22, 25-21. Some emotions occurred again after a third-place victory against rival Weskan, 25-19, 25-22, on Saturday morning at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Thunderhawks wanted to play for a championship and the last match meant the end of the season -- and careers for two senior standouts, setter Brooke Ostmeyer and defensive specialist Brandi Goetz.
However, Wheatland-Grinnell also wore plenty of smiles. The program, with several new faces, reached the state tournament after falling short last year. The Thunderhawks still placed. Plus, they capped the fall with the victory versus rival Weskan, a team it had played multiple times this fall.
"It's hard in some ways, but it's happy in others," Goetz said. "It's nice to end our season with a win, even though it wasn't the one that we wanted. But overall, we met a lot of our goals, and it was a good end."
At the start of the season, many people questioned whether the Thunderhawks could play deep into October after graduating two-time all-state hitter Megan Heier. Wheatland-Grinnell finished 32-11.
"I knew we would," Ostmeyer said of reaching state. "This summer, when I saw how many girls there were in the weight room, and how much that they wanted it, I knew we would be here at the end of the year. I am very proud of all them."
It was the second state placing in three years after a runner-up finish in 2010 and a narrow sub-state loss to Weskan last year.
"More than anything, it's great to end the season on a win," coach Allison Polifka said. "We are in the top three teams in the state. I am extremely proud of the girls. I told them going into the third place match that before the season started, nobody thought that we would even be at state. All I heard is everything that we were losing, and did a great job of filling in, and they have just come so far."
Weskan, in its fifth straight trip to state, battled through injuries all year. It lost to Baileyville B&B in the semifinals 25-13, 25-15 before the defeat to the Thunderhawks. Weskan finished 28-15. Weskan coach Morgan Welsh believed she had more talent last year, but the Coyotes lost out in pool play. She graduated five seniors off the 2011 team.
"The girls are sad, but I kind of joked with them," Welsh said. "I said, 'I promise you, while we are eating, you guys will get on your cell phones and you will write on Facebook, 'We are so happy that we got fourth at state.' ' "
Baileyville-B&B defeated Argonia 25-18, 24-26, 25-18 to finish 40-5 and win its second straight state championship. In pool play Friday, Wheatland-Grinnell played the Falcons close after a tactical change and believed it could win a title Saturday. However, Argonia played nearly mistake-free volleyball in the semifinal. Wheatland-Grinnell led 6-0 in the first set, but Argonia tied the set at 10 and finished the set on a 5-3 run.
"They are really scrappy, and a lot of times, we wait for the other side to mess up," Ostmeyer said. "They had a pretty clean offense. A lot of times we wait for the other side to mess up, and they had a pretty clean offense. We really needed to clean it up in our back row. Just little mistakes."
The second set had six ties, the last coming at 15. However, the Thunderhawks never led after that. A 4-0 run with Argonia leading 20-19 effectively sealed the match. Goetz, the program's all-time leader in digs dating back to 1998, had tears in her eyes as she served out the final point.
"It was very tough," Goetz said. "I knew after we let the ball drop, I knew it was partly my fault. The back row is my main spot, and that should have been my ball. It was hard."
Wheatland-Grinnell's biggest league rival in volleyball is the Coyotes. After the first set win, the Thunderhawks never trailed again after 5-4 in the second set.
"It was great," Goetz said. "I don't think there is anybody that I would rather beat for the third place game. They have always been our competition."
Afterwards, the Thunderhawks posed for multiple photos. During one photo, Ostmeyer's dad, Terry, stood a few feet behind his smiling daughter. Terry, the school's athletic director, had tears running down his cheeks.
"He is a tough guy, but being the athletic director, he is proud and he has always loved watching me play volleyball," Ostmeyer said. "I am sure that it is a sad time for him that's it over now."