With a raucous home crowd cheering them, the Goessel Bluebirds crushed their substate competition Saturday, giving three senior starters their third trip to the state tournament in Hays.
Peabody-Burns scored a first-round victory over Langdon-Fairfield, earning the right to become the Bluebirds’ first victim.
The Warriors, 9-22, put up little resistance as the Bluebirds swept them aside in two sets, 25-3 and 25-5.
The Bluebirds faced Pretty Prairie in the finals.
Pretty Prairie trailed 7-4 when Goessel’s front line began to dominate. The 2014 1A Player of the Year, Page Hiebert, pounded from the left, while Olivia Duerksen and Brittney Hiebert hit from the middle, giving Alyssa Booton many setting options.
Goessel pulled ahead 18-8, as Leah Booton served and played solidly in the back row. When Page Hiebert was in the back row, Eden Hiebert became a force to reckon with at the net, and Alicen Meysing contributed from the middle. Aleena Cook returned serve well as the Bluebirds won the first set 25-11.
Pretty Prairie called time out trailing 10-3 in the second set, but Goessel enlarged its lead to 15-5 and coasted to a 25-7 victory and the championship.
Goessel’s celebration seemed subdued, as the title was just another step in the Bluebirds’ season-long focus on returning to state.
“The last two years, we were so excited just to get to state,” senior Meysing said. “This year we know what we need to do to reach the next step (state champions), and we want to achieve that goal.”
Coach Crysta Guhr echoed that sentiment.
“Our goal all year has been a state championship,” Guhr said. “Getting second place with a 43-1 record last year was very special, but we want something more this year. Winning sub-state makes that goal possible.”
Other seniors were quick to share their perspectives.
“Monday we practice hard and get ready for the State Championships,” said setter Alyssa Booton.
Cook joined the volleyball team for the first time this season.
“The energy from all the players made me want to join them this year. I couldn’t stay away,” Cook said.
Captain Page Hiebert added, “We know the competition will be tough, and we know we want a state championship.”
The championship quest continues Friday in Hays, where seven of eight qualifiers come in ranked in the top 10 in 1A Division 1 by Kansas Volleyball Association.
As the No. 1 seed, the Bluebirds will open play at 8:30 a.m. against surprise entrant Clifton-Clyde, 15-16, which upset Lebo for a state tournament berth.
The going gets tougher when the Bluebirds face Waverly, 33-4, at 10:30 a.m. Goessel wraps up pool play at 1:30 p.m. against Flinthills.
Hoxie, 36-0, and defending state champion Centralia, 38-1, are in the other four-team pool.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to Saturday’s championship bracket, which starts at 10 a.m.