DERBY — McPherson High’s ninth-grade volleyball team won a pulsating semifinal match from Hutchinson, then gutted out a three-setter in the finals against Campus to wear the crown of the AVCTL Tournament on Saturday.
After going 3-0 in pool play, the Bullpups had to stave off elimination in the semifinals against their old rival. Hutchinson had won 25-17 in the first set, but MHS was up against it in Set 2, only to prevail 30-28. It then won the finale, 15-12.
In the championship match, the Bullpups started out with a 25-18 win, but Campus came back to even things up, 25-22. MHS then won a thriller in the third set, 15-13.
“Wow, what a day,” MHS coach Danica Fitzmorris said. “It was a quick morning as we had back-to-back to-back games. We played well all day and had to adjust to different teams’ skills, and the girls worked hard to find what worked offensively and defensively.”
In bracket play, the Bullpups triumphed over Maize (15-25, 25-22, 15-13), Salina Central (25-17, 25-18) and Salina South (25-15, 12-25, 15-11).
“Of the three bracket games, Maize was the most difficult, as they had a fairly tall team and some threats offensively we have not come up against before,” Fitzmorris said. “But we fought back after a first-set loss at 15-25, and worked hard to keep our core values in check and keep the ball in play. We did both and ended up on top.”
The Hutchinson match was an instant classic.
“We had beaten Hutchinson before at the Buhler Tournament 25-20 and 25-14 and felt like we were in a good position to do it again,” Fitzmorris said. “But Hutch had some players that they did not have when we played them before. They beat us the first set, but we did not play our best. And again the girls refocused and played well.”
Campus was somewhat of a mystery team in the finals.
“Our final game against Campus was up in the air,” Fitzmorris said. “I did not know much about them as we had not seen them this season, and I was unable to watch them before we played. It was an easy first set for us and an easy second set for them. Both did not play well initially. It came down to the final set and we came out on top.”
The team finished 30-7 on the season.
“These girls, even without two freshman playing up on JV, have improved so much from the beginning of the season,” Fitzmorris said. “They will continue to improve as they play club ball and I can't wait to see what next season brings.”