SALINA — Sometimes doing your very best is simply not enough.
McPherson High’s volleyball team tried mightily on Saturday in the Class 4A Division I State Tournament championship match against machine-like Bishop Miege, but the Stags made it a 3-peat with a convincing 25-14, 25-16 victory for their 24th state championship overall.
You could sense the frustration of the Bullpups as their smashes that were unhittable against every other opponent were being returned with efficiency by the Stags, who basically play a big-class schedule before coming down to play at the 4A level, one reason they finished the year with a 32-11 record.
They have won state titles in six of the last seven years, three at both 5A and 4A, and there appears to be no end in sight as they are simply the gold standard, just as it is in girls basketball. It’s Miege and then everybody else as the school is a virtual sports championship factory.
For MHS coach Christy Doile, it’s the third time in five years her Bullpups have played for the state title, losing in 2011, winning it all in 2012 (the last team to do it before Miege moved down from 5A) and now second this year. In addition, the Bullpups were third last year as they defeated Louisburg, the same team they defeated on Saturday to make the title match. The Wildcats took third on Saturday, defeating Tonganoxie.
Doile said she wouldn’t have done anything differently against Miege, which featured the wondrous Allie Strong, who literally ripped the varnish off the floor with her heat-seeking missiles. According to Miege officials, she’s seeking a West Point Academy appointment as she’s talented both on and off the court.
“We came with a game plan, the same game plan we’ve been doing since sub-state,” Doile said. “I thought we started fine, but then we had some trouble receiving their serves. Our rallies were all right, they were longer. (Number) 17, Ally Strong, is good. She’s really, really good. We were serving to the right kids and I thought we were doing the right thing. We didn’t win.”
MHS had been superb in turning back Louisburg and its 6-5 dominator Madison Turner in the semifinals, 25-21 and 25-17. In the first set, the Bullpups were down 18-14, but eventually back-to-back kills by Megan Pedersen tied and then put MHS up 19-18 and it closed out strong from there. The second set was close midway through when the Bullpups caught fire, scoring 11 of the last 15 points.
MHS started well against Miege, as it was tied as late as 9-all. But Strong’s powerful smashes sent the Bullpups reeling and then she closed out the set by serving four straight aces as her hard top-spin serves were nothing like MHS had encountered this year.
Set 2 was more of the same as the Bullpups kept close, still down only 17-13, but Miege completed its 5-0 tourney run with a strong finish.
Pedersen and Magan Alexander, both of whom made the All-Tournament Team along with teammate Rachel Dossett, were terrific. Pedersen had 19 kills and 10 assists in the two matches Saturday, while Alexander had nine kills, nine digs, five service aces and two blocks. Brooke Schrag had 19 assists and eight digs, the same number of digs as Addie Simon.
MHS, which finished 38-8, loses Pedersen, Alexander, Simon, Katlyn Ruth and Ashtyn Schieferecke. Miege had only three seniors, though one of them was Strong.