HOISINGTON — For those who thought that Hesston High’s volleyball team was going to fall back somewhat because of key graduation losses, think again.
The Swathers knocked off old nemesis Hillsboro 11-25, 25-17, 25-22 Saturday to win the championship of the always-strong Central Kansas League Preseason Tournament, the first time they have accomplished that feat since 2007.
Hesston coach Jason Peters was rightfully proud of his team’s performance as the CKL is one of the best leagues in Kansas.
“We came into the tournament with high expectations, but not quite knowing what to expect, with a majority of our team having little-to-no previous varsity experience,” Peters said. “We continued to figure things out and communicated better throughout the day and the girls did a great job of keeping a positive attitude even when things didn’t go our way.”
Hesston was 2-0 in pool play with wins over Halsetad (25-12, 25-15) and Nickerson (25-12, 25-15).
In bracket play, Hesston defeated Larned (25-11, 25-21) and Pratt (21-25, 25-23, 25-18) to set up the slugfest with Hillsboro, which had won state championships three years in a row before being dethroned last year by Silver Lake.
“Our league is strong this year with the top six teams playing some great matches against each other throughout the day,” Peters said. “We were fortunate to come out on top this weekend, but it was a great team effort with multiple players stepping up and competing well. We need to continue to work on a lot of things, but it was a great start to the season and good to see that we could compete and respond well under pressure.”
Kailey Jo Ince topped the kill chart with 62, with Cami Richardson adding 51. Mia Loganbill led in blocks with six, while Alaina Dunlavy hustled to an amazing 126 assists. Katie Thrasher led in aces with 11 and Ince topped the dig chart with 41.
Hesston makes its home debut Tuesday, hosting Moundridge and Conway Springs.
• VIKES TAKE FIFTH — Smoky Valley wound up taking fifth place in this tournament.
The Vikings were 1-1 in pool play, defeating Hoisington (25-12, 25-17), but losing to Kingman (20-25, 22-25).
After losing to Pratt (20-25, 24-26), the Vikings bounced back with wins over Larned (25-12, 25-8) and Sterling (25-11, 25-18).
"As the day progressed, the team continued to show improvement in different areas," Viking coach Allison O'Neil said. "It was good to get out and compete against someone other than your own team in practice. Each set someone new stepped up. The coaching staff saw improvements from the start of the day to the end. It was a good building block to begin our season."
Next action is Thursday at Abilene.