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Bluebirds rally to win state volleyball consolation match

News editor

After trouncing Kiowa-South Barber on Saturday at the Class 1A Division 1 volleyball tournament in Hays, the Goessel Bluebirds shared a brief group hug and walked off the court wearing faint smiles of satisfaction.

There was no encore of last year’s frenetic championship celebration; Centralia had seen to that with a 2-0 semifinal win over Goessel.

However, the disappointed Bluebirds quickly regrouped for the battle for third, rolling over Kiowa-South Barber 25-10, 25-17.

“We really pulled pride out of our pockets,” Brittney Hiebert said. “We’re Goessel Bluebirds, and we needed to come out fighting. We needed to end with a win.”

No. 2-seeded Goessel got a wake-up call in its first game of pool play, as seventh-seed Dighton won 25-12.

“We just came out with nerves,” coach Crysta Guhr said. “Probably for the first time since this summer there was a lot of pressure. We’ve never been in this situation before, trying to defend it. We couldn’t have possibly made more errors. That was so uncharacteristic of us.”

Goessel returned the favor in the second game, 25-12, and finished off Dighton with a 25-15 win. The Bluebirds bowled over Lebo 25-14, 25-14, and Kiowa-South Barber, 25-20, 25-17, to win the pool and advance.

Top-seeded Centralia was upset by Hanover in pool play, but wins over Pretty Prairie and LaCrosse set up a semifinal rematch between last year’s championship match foes.

Goessel erased an early 3-0 deficit with a 5-point run keyed by a kill and two service points by Brittney Hiebert, a smothering block by Olivia Duerksen and Eden Hiebert, and a smash by Eden Hiebert.

The lead went back and forth until, with the score tied 13-13, Savannah Wuest ignited a 4-point run with a perfect set that Brittney Hiebert slammed down for a score. Duerksen capped the flurry with another block for a 17-13 lead.

The margin didn’t hold, as the Panthers fought back to a 19-19 tie, then reeled off 4 points to go up 23-19. Leah Booton scored to stop the surge, but Centralia responded with 2 points to win 25-20.

Goessel fell behind 3-1 in the second game, but stayed within 2 at 13-11 as Brittney and Eden Hiebert smothered a shot at the net.

The Bluebirds would get no closer. The Panthers’ Cassidy Haufler scored 4 points in a 6-point run aided by uncharacteristic Goessel miscues to grab a commanding 19-11 lead. After the teams exchanged points, Haufler went on a 3-point tear to put Centralia up 23-12, and while the Bluebirds responded with 4 points, the Panthers advanced with a 25-16 win.

“I think we just dug ourselves in a hole right off the bat and I don’t think we reacted quick enough to what we needed to do,” Brittney Hiebert said.

Guhr pinpointed what caused the Bluebirds to stall.

“Our passing broke down,” Guhr said. “We couldn’t get the pass where we wanted it, so we were really one-dimensional. We were constantly on the defensive. You give teams like that with a lot of firepower multiple opportunities to hit at you and it’s going to be hard to win.”

Duerksen and Brittney Hiebert joined repeat honoree Eden Hiebert on the Kansas Volleyball Association all-tournament team.

Guhr reflected on the legacy that Duerksen, the team’s only senior, leaves behind.

“It’s really unbelievable the career she’s put together,” she said. “Her freshman year she got fourth here. Her sophomore year she got second, last year she got first, this year she got third. She got one of all of them. We’ve got a lot of girls that are high character, good kids, and they’re going to remember what she’s been able to do and they’re going to want to do it, too.”

Finishing third at state in what began as a rebuilding year is an accomplishment Guhr attributed to the team’s work ethic and character.

“We clawed and scratched all summer to fine tune and learn new positions and figure things out,” she said. “They have to be driven for moments like this and think higher than the moment they’re in. That’s a character thing, as opposed to a talent thing.”

The Bluebirds finished the season 42-2.

“We ended on a win, and not many teams can say they did that,” Guhr said.

Last modified Nov. 3, 2016

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