De Soto volleyball turns up the pressure
The De Soto volleyball team hoped to begin the regular season by building on the strong momentum generated at the conclusion of last year. And after starting the campaign a week ago at 3-0, things seemed to be on schedule.
The Wildcats took a 7-2 record into Tuesday's quadrangular at Paola, which featured the host Panthers along with Central Heights and fifth-ranked Tonganoxie.
The group in green began the night against Tongie and fought its way to a 25-14, 22-25, 25-22 victory.
"We went into tonight with a lot of confidence," senior Sam Johnson said. "And we were able to stay focused."
Focus is perhaps what produced the victory for the Wildcats.
After a relatively easy opening game, De Soto was dealt a setback by the Chieftains in game number two.
But the Cats bounced back for the decisive game to claim the match with strong play from juniors Jackie Goleman and Jeni Hill.
The pair combined for six kills and three aces in the final match that added another "W" to the De Soto win column.
The Wildcats then moved on to a meeting with league foe Central Heights. The result was another victory, 25-14, 25-13.
In game one, the Vikings looked to be the aggressors by jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead. But De Soto battled back to tie the score at 3-3 on the strength of senior captain Lauren Hampton's rocket spikes.
Central Heights managed to squeak out another advantage at 5-4, but then the De Soto guns took over.
After tying the game at 5-5, the Wildcats erupted for seven unanswered points to take a 12-5 lead. Hampton netted two of her seven kills in the run.
The Cats never looked back as they led by as many as 11 and racked up an easy game-one win.
Game two was more of the same as De Soto jumped out to an early 8-4 lead on the serving strength of senior Jessica Blankenship.
The Vikings never came within four again as Goleman and Hampton pounded the Central Heights backcourt with help from junior setter Sydney Tenney, and the Wildcats notched their ninth win of the season and the first against a league opponent.
But the confidence of the first two victories turned out to be short-lived as the Wildcats capped the night against host Paola.
The Panthers put the Wildcats in their place with a 26-24, 25-16 victory.
Game one saw the two squads go toe-to-toe. Early on neither team could pull away as the two deadlocked at 9-9.
But Paola then began to mount a run as junior Brittney Miller and freshman Rachel Hanf peppered the nets to put the Panthers up 15-11.
The Wildcats once again battled back to tie the game at 16 on a Hampton kill, but the Panthers were able to outlast the visitors for the win.
The hard-fought game-one loss made the loss in game two particularly disappointing for the Wildcats. The team dropped the second match in lackluster fashion as it fell behind early 10-6 and never recovered.
"We didn't play up to our potential against Paola," Hampton said. "For some reason we really had a problem communicating."
The lackluster performance in the final game was the only blemish on the evening for the Wildcats (9-3), but it was a blemish that as far as the coach was concerned could have been avoided.
"We should have won all three," coach Lori Brooks said.
The Wildcats took to the court Saturday for the Lansing Invitational. The Wildcats' 4-2 performance helped them reach the 7-2 record they achieved coming into Tuesday's quadrangular.
The Wildcats took care of business Saturday by realizing of one of the goals they had set for themselves earlier in the year -- winning the games that they should.
"We came out of the tournament knowing that we can beat the teams that we should," Johnson said.
De Soto's victories included a 25-21, 21-25, 25-17 win over league foe Louisburg as well as a win over Piper. The 25-23, 25-17 win was a bit of revenge for last year's season-ending loss to the Pirates.
But the losses the team suffered Saturday were a stark contrast to the disappointment served up at the hands of Paola Tuesday.
The Wildcats held their own against the two 6A schools invited to the tournament, Washburn Rural and Shawnee Mission West, but ultimately fell 8-25, 21-25 and 8-25, 23-25.
"We really played the bigger schools well," Hampton said. "And I think that shows us that we can be competitive against the larger schools."