Emotions play a big part in volleyball.
The Thomas More Prep-Marian team showcased that in the title match of the Class 3A sub-state tournament late Saturday night at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
In front of a raucous crowd, the Monarchs rode the emotional wave into the state tournament once again with a 25-13, 25-23 victory over Colby.
“We decided to come out and play our game and come out with a lot of fire,” said senior Bailey Lacy. “When we come out with a lot of fire, it just changes the whole way we play. If we have energy and intensity, everything just goes. We get our passes, and everything just flows.”
The intensity the Monarchs showcased propelled the team to a dominating win against Colby in the first set.
The opening win was fueled by senior Kayla Vitztum, who finished with 10 kills in the 12-point victory.
“That was one thing we really focused on was going hard and being excited every single point no matter what the outcome was of it,” Viztum said.
There was a lot to be excited about for the Monarchs. TMP (38-2) won its first two games in straight sets, beating Goodland 25-18, 25-9 before disposing of Lakin in the semifinals, 25-18, 25-20.
But coach Natausha Dreher and the team felt something was lacking a bit in the two wins that put the Monarchs in the championship match.
“I feel like the first two games, we were going slow and not working as hard toward the ball,” Vitztum said. “But in the championship game, there’s always more hype. You could tell we wanted it and wanted the ball and really wanted to get back to state.”
It showed from the first serve. The Monarchs scored the first two points, then broke open a 6-6 tie by scoring the next five points to force a timeout by Colby.
Vitztum had two kills in the spurt, junior Jillian Lowe added two service aces and junior Paris Wolf tallied another kill.
“They said that they were going to come out fired up and make a statement,” Dreher said. “And they made a very strong statement right off the bat.”
The Eagles (24-15) would come no close than four points the rest of the set.
“They took care of it,” Dreher said. “They were so fun to coach. In situations like that, you get to sit back and think, ‘Yep, that’s my girls.’ ”
Colby, which rallied to beat Scott City in its semifinal, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, showed more pep in the second set — eventually building a 14-10 lead.
But Dreher called a timeout and settled the troops.
“That’s what we said when we went to the bench,” Lacy said. “We said don’t let up because we can’t let them think they can get back into this. I know we let up a little bit, but we just got the win overall and it was awesome.”
Vitztum answered after the timeout with back-to-back kills, and Lowe followed with a service ace to pull TMP within 14-13.
“It just gives us more hope that we’re going to make it to the second day and push it to get there and that we are a good enough team to be there,” Vitztum said about making the comeback.
With the score tied at 17, TMP took control. Senior Ciara Seib scored on a kill, followed by another kill by senior Ashley Ostrander.
“I was proud of them, definitely, in those first two matches,” Dreher said. “But this last match, they had it made up in their minds that they were going back to Emporia. This is our team. This is what they have done, what they have worked for and built — and they showed that.”
The Eagles eventually tied the game at 23-23 before Vitztum brought down the hammer.
She tallied back-to-back kills to end the match and send TMP back to the 3A state tourney in Emporia.
“I know when you spread the net, that’s what works best for our team and our setters do a really good job of it,” said Vitztum, who finished with 16 kills in the title match. “But I wanted to put the ball down.”
TMP went 1-2 at state last year and failed to make the second day.
It was a goal of the team to get back to state again with a solid senior class returning.
“I’m not going to say a sigh of relief, because this is what they’ve been fighting for since practice No. 1, since the second the season ended last year,” Dreher said. “They’ve been fighting for another trip back to Emporia. But I know when we get back to Emporia, they are going to fight the same way they did in this championship game. And they are excited to get back in the gym Monday and work and go to Emporia and work even harder.”