HESSTON — Jason Peters and his Hesston High volleyball team are beginning to know the route to Emporia like the back of their hand.
The Swathers will be playing in the Class 3A State Tournament for the third year in a row beginning Friday at White Auditorium.
The Swathers take a 34-6 record to state and are the No. 5 seed. They have no bargain in the opener as they take on Silver Lake at 4:30, which is the No. 1-ranked team in the state despite being the No. 4 seed.
Hesston later plays Thomas More Prep at 5:30 and Humboldt at 7:30.
“Our pool will be tough, with perennial power Silver Lake, who is ranked No. 1, and TMP who has the best overall record and is seeded No. 1,” Peters said. “We have played Silver Lake in our pool the past two years, so we are familiar with their team, and TMP runs a quicker offense, similar to ours, but we have not faced many teams like that this year.”
With this being the third straight year the Swathers have played at state, they won’t walk into White Auditorium with a deer-in-the-headlights look. They took third place a year ago.
“We know what to expect with the experience of the state tournament, having been there the last two years, and if we play with energy and passion like we did at sub-state, we should compete well against anyone we face,” Peters said. “We get to face Silver Lake and TMP back-to-back in our first two matches, so we will need to come ready to play right away, but the team has looked forward to playing strong competition this year and is looking forward to this challenge.”
The Swathers are led by Kailey Jo Ince, a probable All-Stater. Alaina Dunlavy is like a coach on the floor, while Mia Loganbill and Cameron Denno were starters for last year’s Final Four team. Rylie Schilling stepped up big in last week’s sub-state with 10 kills and Kennedy Teach does a great job digging. She had 23 in three matches last weekend.
Hesston definitely got the tougher side of the bracket as TMP is 38-2, Silver Lake is 35-5 and Humboldt is 28-11 and the longest of long shots.
The other side of the bracket includes Wellsville (35-4), Nemaha Central (32-8), Cheney (35-4) and Douglass (31-6). Sometimes the records aren’t the true indicator, as often a team’s mark depends on their level of competition.