Saturday's Maroon and Gold Invitational provided Hays High coach Christin Nunnery and Thomas More Prep-Marian coach Natausha Dreher a pretty good sample size to evaluate their teams in the first action of the season.
Overall, both coaches were encouraged with what they saw out of their respective squads after a long day of volleyball that saw each team play five matches.
The Indians placed second in their home tournament, going 3-2 with both losses to Olathe West. West beat the Indians in the championship match, 15-25, 10-25.
“I felt like we moved and progressively got better throughout the day,” Nunnery said of the Indians. “We started a little slow. We had Olathe second match and I kind of thought we were slow but then we picked it up against Scott City and then Salina South.
“We had tired legs, and I think that was a lot of what we saw at the end — just tired legs. First day out, five matches was awesome. I felt like our girls played really well, and then we just didn’t have the energy to finish today."
Dreher's Monarchs went 2-3 in the tournament but finished strong, beating Salina South 25-19, 25-18 in the third-place match to avenge a loss to the Cougars earlier in the day.
“I definitely feel like they found their stride and they found their groove as the day progressed,” Dreher said. “And I feel like they understood as the day progressed what worked good for each other. Learning to play as a team is going to be so crucial for any successful team, so I hope that they continue to grow the way that they did today.”
Hays High went 2-1 in pool play with wins over Wheatland (25-23, 27-25) and Scott City (25-21, 21-25, 25-16) and a loss to Olathe West (19-25, 19-25). The Indians made the championship match with a 25-22, 25-20 win over Salina South, with senior Tasiah Nunnery notching 14 kills and 10 assists to lead the way.
Tasiah Nunnery, a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference pick last year, was named the tournament's most outstanding player.
Christin Nunnery also credited the play of senior Macee Altman.
“Macee’s kind of a silent leader,” Nunnery said. “She does a lot in the front row but doesn’t maybe have all the kills and that kind of stuff, but she gets touches and puts the ball where she needs to. Tasiah has had to set for us the last three years. It's not her favorite but she did it today and led us in assists and also led us in kills. Those two played big for us."
Junior libero Brooklyn Schaffer was also solid for the Indians, joining Tasiah Nunnery on the all-tournament team.
The Indians will rely heavily on a six-player senior class — Nunnery, Altman, Peyton Niernberger, Sierra Bryant, Brooke Denning and Cassidy Prough.
“We have a lot of seniors but we have two seniors that have played varsity consistently,” Christin Nunnery said. “Our seniors are awesome, but we also have about four or five seniors that really haven’t been on the varsity level much. But they stepped up and played big today and did a lot of good stuff, so that was awesome to see. And then they just really get along well and like each other and like seeing each other succeed, so that’s great from our senior class and their leadership."
The Indians won't return to action until Sept. 12 in a quadrangular at Dodge City.
TMP-Marian went 1-2 in pool play but still placed second in their pool and made it to the semifinals. The Monarchs opened the day with a win over Bucklin (25-17, 25-17) before losing three-setters to Salina South (17-25, 25-18, 17-25) and Colby (29-31, 25-15, 19-25).
TMP fell to Olathe West in the semifinals (24-26, 14-25) but ended the day on a high note with a win 25-19, 25-18 win over Salina South.
Sophomore hitter Emilee Lane earned a spot on the all-tournament team for TMP.
The Monarchs have just one senior (Kallyn DeWitt) but have several players with varsity experience.
“They’ve played a lot of volleyball so they’re used to this speed, and it has made a world of difference that they have a year or two years under their belt of varsity experience," Dreher said.
Dreher said several players made their presence felt in the tournament.
“I feel like everybody was such a really big contributor to the team,” she said. “Kassidi Yost had to step up today and run a 5-1. Sophia Coulter is out with a concussion so we really asked a lot of out of (Yost) today, running a 5-1. Emilee Lane definitely did a really great job on the outside. Jadyn Gottschalk did a phenomenal job attacking from the back row and really reading the defense very well.
“Emilie Augustine in that libero uniform is huge for us, running our defense and running our serve receive makeup. Sophia Balthazor had phenomenal timing on her blocking. I think every girl had such a huge rule. It was just neat to see them finally get to step out there and see every single one of them do something great for us.”
TMP will host a triangular with Ellis and Stockton starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Al Billinger Field House.