TMP volleyball will go for MCL tourney title on Saturday in Hoxie

Rick Peterson Jr.
TMP players celebrate after winning a point on Thursday against Norton at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.

The Thomas More Prep-Marian volleyball team swept through its pool in the Mid-Continent League tournament and will go for the tournament title on Saturday.

The Monarchs won every set in Thursday’s quadrangular with Norton, Oakley and Stockton. They will meet Phillipsburg and Smith Center in a triangular that will determine the MCL tourney champion on Saturday at Hoxie High School.

TMP earned two-set wins over Stockton (25-19, 25-6), Oakley (25-11, 25-18) and Norton (25-8, 25-19) on Thursday at Al Billinger Fieldhouse. The Monarchs moved to 24-5 on the season.

“I feel like they kind of started to get in the groove by the third match of the day,” TMP coach Natausha Dreher said. “I feel like this week we’ve had some really, really great practices. I feel like as the day progressed they began to play more and more like a team, all of us together.”

TMP came out on fire to start the third match against Norton, winning the first six points with Emilee Augustine at serve. The Bluejays had no answer for TMP junior hitter Emilee Lane, who dominated at times during the match.

“They had a game plan and they stuck to it incredibly well,” Dreher said of her team. “Not only did they stick to the game plan, they stuck to the game plan aggressively. It’s easy to say, ’Hit this spot,’ and they put the ball there, but they don’t put the ball there at a tempo you’d like them to put it there. They stayed aggressive and I was really proud of that.”

TMP jumped out to another big lead in the second set against Norton, opening up a 16-5 lead but Norton fought back to make it a one-point match at 20-19, prompting Dreher to call a timeout to get the Monarchs regrouped.

“Just staying confident and knowing that they have the ability and they have the fight in them,” Dreher said of the message. “We’re all fighting for the same common goal. They have the ability, they just need to execute. Just trying to kind of boost their confidence a little bit.”

TMP responded with a 5-0 run to end the match. Freshman Kiera Wagstaff was at serve for the last four points.

“She is a gamer,” Dreher said. “It’s really awesome to know that you have the confidence in all your players when you put them back there to serve. I feel like Kiera almost thrives in that situation. I never for a second think she’s going to be like, ’Oh, no, it’s game point.’

“That kiddo is a gamer and I really enjoy having her back there in those situations.”

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the format of the MCL Tournament was changed to avoid having all the teams at one site. TMP, Phillipsburg and Smith Center each hosted quads on Thursday with each pool winner moving on to Saturday’s triangular for the title. Like TMP, Phillipsburg and Smith Center each went 3-0 on Thursday.

The Monarchs met up with Phillipsburg and Smith Center earlier this season in the Smith Center quad. TMP beat Phillipsburg in three sets and lost to Smith Center in three.

Saturday’s triangular at Hoxie will start with Phillipsburg vs. Smith Center at 1 p.m., followed by TMP vs. Smith Center and then TMP vs. Phillipsburg.

“We really enjoy playing Smith Center and Phillipsburg, and Norton as well,” Dreher said. “We really enjoy playing in our league. Saturday is going to be a good time and I think our girls are really excited for that. They love playing those teams and that level of volleyball.”