DODGE CITY – Little River did it, they went into the Class 1A Division I state volleyball tournament as the fourth seed and came home as 2022 State Champions after beating the top seed not just once, but twice.
“Going into the weekend I was just so anxious,” explained Little River head coach Kim Rolfs. “I think I felt so anxious because I knew we had a chance to bring home a state championship and after our play on Friday, it became evident that if we played like we did – our shot was really good!”
On Friday, the Lady Redskins stumbled just a bit in the first set of their first-round game in pool play as they lost 21-25 to fifth seeded and defending state champion Spearville before bouncing back and scoring identical wins of 25-22, 25-22 in the final two sets of the match.
Looking back at the match with Spearville, coach Rolfs noted, “Beating Spearville was a key on our confidence going into the rest of the tournament because it means you have knocked off the defending state champions. Why wouldn’t it build the teams confidence level.”
In their second match of pool play on Friday, Little River overwhelmed eight seed Olpe with a straight set 25-13, 25-14 victory.
This matched the Lady Redskins up with top seeded Rosalia/Flint Hills who was bringing a season mark into the tournament of 37-2.
After losing the first set, 23-25, by just two points, Little River buried Rosalia/Flint Hills in both the final two sets with wins of 25-9 and 25-12 to go unbeaten in pool play.
Heading into the semi-finals on Saturday, coach Rolfs said, “I could see the confidence in the girls. Our motto ‘Believe in the Team’ was evident not only in the girls but our school and community of Little River.”
Taking on third seed Pretty Prairie in the state semi-finals, the Lady Redskins scored a 25-16 first set win and then lost in extra time, 26-28, in the second set before bouncing back big and scoring a commanding 25-11 third set win to punch their ticket to the state championship game.
In the championship match, Little River was pitted once again to battle top seeded Rosalia/Flint Hills. In the first set the Lady Redskins served notice they meant business by scoring a decisive 25-11 win. The Mustangs were not about to succumb so easily as they bounced back and handed a sizable 18-25 loss on Little River in the second set. In the final set of the championship game and season, Little River stepped up and hammered the Mustangs by winning 25-9 and earning the 2022 State Championship for Class 1A Division I.
Discussing the tournament, coach Rolf added, “Overall, I am just overwhelmed with how blessed I am to be coaching a great group of girls not only on the court but off the court as well. And with the arrival back home it made sense to me as why – our communities put together the most awesome welcome home celebration. I mean we had fireworks and the whole nine yards!! Who does fireworks for a small Class 1A town? I appreciate all the love the community showed and at that moment all the work, stress, and everything else that was put into it was worth it! It was a balanced effort the entire tournament from everyone.”
As a team, the Lady Redskins proved to have a balance effort for the entire tournament from the entire team as so many put up some impressive numbers on Friday and Saturday.
Alaina Eck had a huge tournament by leading the team in recorded kills with 51 while also making 47 digs. The DeBaere sisters, Chenzi and Mea as well as Kate Ellwood directed the Lady Redskin attack with 69, 66, and 61 assists, respectively. Others recording solid kills in the tournament were Aubrey Olander with 39, Ashley Stephenson had 27, Havana Olander 19, Kami Grasser with 17 and Lucy Wright made 11.
Havana and Aubrey Olander topped the team in blocks with nine and eight each while Stephenson had five. Kami Grasser led the team in service aces with nine.
Coach Rolfs concluded her reflections on the state championship by saying, “I am so happy for the girls to experience all of this for sure, especially sending out our only senior, Mea DeBaere, with a state championship win. Mea is a great kid, leader and inspired our girls to be the best. All of her support will most certainly be missed.”
(The Staff covering McPherson County Activities can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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