For the first time in 17 years, the Bluebird volleyball team qualified to play in the semifinals of the state tournament.
Goessel picked up its 34th win of the year on Friday in one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Bluebirds picked up two wins and one loss on Friday, propelling them into the semifinal game on Saturday.
Although the first sets in each match on Saturday were very close, the Bluebirds lost two matches on the big stage. Goessel was seeded fifth in the tournament of eight teams, and when they knocked off the first seed, the Bluebirds moved up one notch in the tournament and ended in fourth place.
Friday morning’s opening match was with fourth-seeded Spearville. In the first set, the score was tied regularly with the Bluebirds holding slim leads at 8-5, 15-11, and 18-15. A flurry of points by the Lancers finished the set, giving the Bluebirds a loss of 25-20. In the second set, Spearville held the momentum throughout the match and finished with a 25-14 win.
A bit stunned, the Bluebirds had to turn around and immediately play the top-seeded Caldwell Bluejays. Goessel jumped out to a 7-0 lead with Alyssa Booton setting Page Hiebert and Alicen Meysing for winners. The competitive Bluejays pecked their way back into the set and took a 21-15 lead. The game ended with Caldwell getting a win on game one at 25-20.
Hiebert and Gentry Thiesen began the second set on target as again the Bluebirds surged to a 7-2 lead. Makayla King and Shelbi Stultz were getting to balls in the back row as Erin Brubaker, Meysing, and Olivia Duerksen were controlling the game at the net. Goessel went up 15-5 and then 19-6 as the success mounted. Anna Wiens came in to serve the last five points as the Bluebirds stomped to a 25-7 win.
In the third set, Goessel got ahead 3-0, but the Bluebirds succumbed to errors and Caldwell grabbed a 9-4 lead. Goessel gradually played their way back into the game, taking a lead at 13-12 and then again at 16-15. Hiebert hit well from her position in the front row, helping the Bluebirds to a 20-17 lead. As Hiebert moved back to serve, Brubaker and Meysing mixed things up with power and finesse to win the match 25-22.
Goessel fell behind LaCrosse, the number eight seed, 6-1. It took a while, but the Bluebirds gained their first lead of the game at 16-15. The Bluebirds gained control and finished ahead 25-18. In the second set of the match, Goessel realized another win would give them a good shot at playing on Saturday, an opportunity that had eluded the Bluebirds in four earlier appearances at the state tournament.
Goessel fell behind 8-3 and was forced to take a timeout. LaCrosse committed several errors as the Bluebirds tied the game at 13. Duerksen hit a winner in the middle, Hiebert got a block, and Booton served an ace to give Goessel the lead, 17-13. The Bluebirds exploded on a 6-1 run, getting close to that elusive victory. Brubaker hit a winner, and Meysing finished the match with Goessel winning 25-16.
Hoxie was the opponent for Saturday morning. This was a classic battle of two good teams. A three-point lead was unusual for either team as the game stayed close to the end. Goessel led 23-21, but Hoxie kept hitting winners and the score was tied at 24. The Bluebirds failed to score before the Indians finished the first set 26-24.
In the second set, it was again a stalemate with the score tied at 12. The Bluebirds began to struggle with passes as the Indians kept hitting and serving strong. Hoxie went on to win 25-14.
In the consolation match, the Bluebirds found their opponent to be Spearville again. It seemed that the magic season had dimmed as Goessel fell behind 11-5. The Bluebirds trailed 16-11 and then began a comeback. Hiebert, Brubaker, and Duerksen all hit winners and Goessel had somehow taken a 22-20 lead. But that is where the magic stopped as the Lancers took the first set with a 25-22 win.
The Bluebirds never got on track in the second set. Goessel fell behind 4-0 and then multiple errors gave Spearville an insurmountable 12-3 lead. Nothing seemed to work in the final set of the season. A season without any seniors came to an end for Goessel with a final score of 25-9. The Bluebirds worked well together as a team and two of the girls were recognized by the Kansas Volleyball Association on the all-tournament team: setter Alyssa Booton and outside hitter Page Hiebert.
The Goessel team stepped forward to accept their fourth-place state medals after an eventful season which included a Wheat State League Championship.
Goessel finished the year with an overall record of 34-11.
Karl Brubaker contributed to this report.