Jayhawks come close to upset of top-seed Sedan Blue Devils

Addison Stokes-Todd handles a serve during a game earlier this year. She is one of several seniors who are ending their high school volleyball career. (File photo)

Just by glancing at the score, it looked like the Jayhawk-Linn varsity volleyball team went down without much difficulty to No. 1-seed Sedan Blue Devils at St. Mary's Colgan in substate play on Saturday, Oct. 23.

But on the court it was a different story. One of the top-ranked small-school teams in southeastern Kansas, the Blue Devils had a 24-8 record going into the Class 2A substate tourney. Jayhawks’ record was the opposite: 7-24.

So Sedan likely figured that the first round would be an easy win. But once the whistle sounded, they found out that a scrappy eighth-seed Mound City team had improved over the season and could very well send them home early.

“We came out loose and having fun and played really well the first game of the match, and won 25-21,” said head coach Christa Holt. “Sedan was a little shell-shocked by us, I think, and didn’t realize that we were playing like we didn’t have anything to lose, ‘cause we didn’t.”

Calling the match between the two teams a “defensive battle,” Holt said the Jayhawks were able to give Sedan “all they wanted of us.”

In the second set, the Lady Jayhawks once again took command, building a five-point lead, 20-15. But the Blue Devils rallied and pushed the game into extra points. The lead went back and forth between the two teams.

The Jayhawks served twice for game point but couldn’t finish. Sedan ended up winning the game 29-27.

“The third game we mentally had lost focus and couldn’t finish and ended up losing 16-25,” Holt said.

All that was left of the season after the 2-1 loss in the first round was the trip home.

Except Holt didn’t see it that way.

“I was thrilled with the end to the season,” she said. “It was the best we had played all year. We played together as a team, we didn’t get down about mistakes, we fought hard for points and I was proud of them.”

Senior Marissa Baldwin had six kills and 20 digs in the match. Fellow senior Rylee Spencer had 19 digs and 15 assists. It was the last game of their high school careers. Other seniors who are leaving include Jude Kerr, Addison Stokes-Todd, Taylor Mosley, Rosie Seagren, Haven Conner and Jayden Willard.

Holt was excited about performance of her younger players in the match and the potential that holds for next year.

“Anna Schneider had 13 kills, absolutely her best game of the year,” Holt said. Schneider is a junior. But freshmen also stepped up their game as well, she said.

Freshman Kenzley Nation had 15 digs. “She’s a freshmen that will help us in the coming years,” the coach said.

Freshman Callie Holt had 14 digs and 14 assists. “Another freshmen that will definitely see a lot of court time in the coming years,” Holt added.

“It was nice to let our younger girls see us play to that level and hopefully we can start there next season, instead of backtracking to that slow, unenthusiastic game we started the season with,” she said.

There has been another development that will likely spell a brighter future ahead for the Lady Jayhawks. Most of the older players on this year’s team don’t play club ball in the offseason, because many of them play basketball and other sports. However, that is beginning to change.

“Several of the freshmen played (traveling ball) for the past two winters and there will be several more that will play this winter,” Holt said. “From a coaches’ standpoint, I love that!

“It just shows me that they want to put the time in to be good. And we need more players that are willing to dedicate themselves to making themselves better.”

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