EMPORIA — For the Monarchs, things couldn't have ended any sweeter.
After coming close in multiple sports in the past, the Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball team was able to grab the school's first state title for five senior girls that had nothing but revenge on their minds after losing out in pool play a year ago at the Class 3A state tournament in Emporia.
TMP defeated Hesston and then Cheney to claim its first volleyball state crown.
The Monarchs bounced back from a loss to Cheney in pool play Friday to knock off the Cardinals when the championship was on the line. The three-set thriller swung back and forth, but the Monarchs built a big lead in the final set and held on for the win, 25-22, 18-25, 25-19.
“If any, I knew this class could do it,” TMP coach Natausha Dreher said as her team claimed the 3A trophy and posed for pictures on the court. “They had experience in the tournament. We were here last year, but didn’t make it out of pool play. They always had their sights set on the state title.”
TMP entered the tournament with a record of 38- and as the No. 1 seed. The Monarchs emerged from Friday’s pool play as the second seed by going 2-1 after the loss to Cheney.
“Every year you go through the excitement of the process, and we went through some different things this year, and we knew, ultimately, it was going to take us to this. This is what we were fighting for,” Dreher said.
TMP defeated third-seeded Hesston 25-21, 26-24 to advance to the finals.
“We had played Hesston before, and we were like, ‘We’re going to get them this time,’ ” Dreher said. “We were prepared. We knew what we needed to do. We needed to stay relaxed and have fun, and we did just that.”
In the finals, TMP fell behind early in the first set against Cheney, but clawed back to take its first lead at 15-14 and held on for the win.
The second set, however, went decidedly in Cheney’s favor and proved a gut-check to the eventual champions.
“At a certain point in that second set, I think the girls realized, ‘OK, we’re going to go three. We’re going to take the momentum at the very beginning and just push all the way to 25.’ And that’s what they did.”
TMP stole the momentum back from Cheney early in the third and rolled to a 17-8 advantage. The Cardinals fought back but never got closer than four points.
“I am just so proud of those young women,” said Dreher, who guided TMP to its first championship and a 42-3 record in her seventh season as head coach. “It feels amazing. The pride that I feel to get to coach these kids and be part of this program is just awesome.”
Finals: Thomas More Prep-Marian def. Cheney 25-22, 18-25, 25-19.
Consolation: Hesston def. Nemaha Central 25-20, 25-7.
Semifinals: Cheney def. Nemaha Central 25-27, 29-27, 25-19; Thomas More Prep-Marian def. Hesston 25-21, 26-24.