Hoxie advances; La Crosse goes 0-3
By NICK SCHWIEN
If Hoxie was looking to make a statement, the Indians got their point across in spectacular fashion Friday at the Class 1A Division I state volleyball tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays.
The Indians, led by coach Shelly Hoyt, shocked many in attendance — except themselves — in beating perennial state power Centralia to earn the No. 1 seed from their pool.
“Anytime you beat a powerhouse like Centralia at their own game, I would say so,” Hoyt said about the statement victory. “Every day you work hard to beat those state teams, those state powerhouses. We talk about that all the time. We have to practice like we're playing a state championship team. When you get to here and play a state championship team like that, then you're used to it because you practiced like that.”
Hoxie (38-3) earned the top seed by beating the Panthers 25-21, 25-20. The Indians, who lost twice to Centralia in 2012 at state, even trailed late in the first game.
“We wanted to get back at them for our losses to them last year,” said Hoxie junior Lexi Schamberger.
The Indians made that loud and clear, although there remained the possibility of the two teams squaring off again in the title match.
Hoxie will play Goessel in the semifinals early Saturday, while Centralia (36-6) will play Spearville, who won the other pool.
“Their hitters are all just unbelievable,” said Centralia coach Kimbrook Tennal. “They're just an all-around good team. If we can get by Spearville — they're a pretty good team — I think we can give Hoxie a little better match in the finals.”
The road to the semifinals looked daunting entering the tourney for Hoxie. All four teams in their pool were making a return trip to state. But the Indians slept-walked through a 25-21, 25-17 win over Scandia-Pike Valley to open the tournament in the early hours Friday. Then Hoxie disposed of Waverly, 25-8, 25-18.
When Centralia won its first two matches, it set up a battle for the top seed in the final match Friday.
“That's what we felt,” Tennal said about his team and Hoxie battling for the top seed prior to the tourney.
Hoxie trailed late in the first game before rallying to win.
“There's one thing about this team, and they have no quit in them,” said Hoyt, who guided the Hoxie girls to a 1A Division I title last year in basketball. “I wasn't worried about it at all. I knew they could come back. They believe in themselves. And it's my second year back. Even though they've had me in basketball for how many ever years, they've never really had me in volleyball. We're just playing with a lot more confidence, and a lot less quit in them.”
There was no quitting for the Indians in pool play. And because of that, they staked claim as one of the best in the state.
“We're all really strong together,” Schamberger said. “We work with each other really well.”
Leopards fall short
La Crosse coach Mindi Dreiling has seen inexperience plague her team more than once this year. On Friday, she saw it again in the first match against top-seeded Caldwell.
The Bluejays won the first game 25-19, then watched as the Leopards (16-23) were on the verge of winning the second game. But Caldwell rallied back to win it, 26-24.
“We do that a lot. We always start slow. That's always been a habit,” Dreiling said. “Usually in our second set, we pick it up. We battled in that game, and I really thought we had it. We just had a couple silly mistakes at the end that lost the set for us. But I was proud of them.”
The Leopards were making their first state appearance since 2004, when they also failed to advance out of pool play.
“I just told the girls in the locker room that that's kind of been the beauty of this,” Dreiling said. “We got a taste of what this is like. We're a young team, and we've only got two seniors. We're going to be a lot better next year. A lot of times with younger girls, it's about experience. They get down on themselves. I think with time and age, I think we'll be a lot better.”
La Crosse — featuring one of the youngest squads in the tourney, along with Waverly — also lost to Spearville and Goessel in straight sets.
“It's definitely a step in the right direction,” Dreiling said about making state. “The girls got a taste of what it's like to be here. They can say they've been here, and their nerves can be gone when we come back next year — because I plan to come back next year. It's a step in the right direction, even though we went 0-3.”
Class 1A Division I
Friday's pool play
Caldwell def. La Crosse, 25-19, 26-24; Spearville def. Goessel, 25-20, 25-14; Goessel def. Caldwell, 20-25, 25-7, 25-22; Spearville def. La Crosse, 25-18, 25-7; Goessel def. La Crosse, 25-18, 25-16; Spearville def. Caldwell, 25-14, 25-22.
Hoxie def. Pike Valley, 25-21, 25-17; Centralia def. Waverly, 21-25, 25-10, 25-8; Hoxie def. Waverly, 25-8, 25-18; Centralia def. Pike Valley, 25-20, 25-14; Waverly def. Pike Valley, 21-25, 25-20, 26-24; Hoxie def. Centralia, 25-21, 25-20.
10 a.m. — Spearville (32-6) vs. Centralia (36-6); Hoxie (38-3) vs. Goessel (34-9).
11:15 a.m. — Semifinal winners.
11:15 a.m. — Semifinal losers.