It would have been real easy this season for McPherson High volleyball coach Christy Doile to believe that maybe her team’s run of state appearances was going to end at six.
After her team started the season 1-2, it ripped off an 11-match winning streak to move to 12-2 and earn a Top 3 state ranking.
Then the bottom fell out. A 4-11 record over a 15-game stretch — with some of the losses coming to teams MHS has handled easily through the years — dropped the record to 16-13.
Included in that stretch was an inconceivable 25-2 loss in a set against Rose Hill, that’s right, just two points.
Not good for a team that had gone 189-28 over the past six years, which included a state championship, two second-place state finishes and a third.
But Doile knew there was a lot of season left. MHS won nine of its last 12 matches, including a blitz of Hays and Ulysses in the Hays sub-state that extended MHS’ state streak to seven.
“Never lost faith,” Doile said. “I just wanted to help them keep their confidence and make sure as a coach that I was doing everything possible to put us in a position to compete.”
MHS begins play this afternoon at the Class 4A Division I Tournament in Salina with that same Rose Hill team that embarrassed it a month ago. The teams met 10 days ago in McPherson for a second time and the Bullpups were right there with the Rockets in both sets, only to lose.
Doile trusts her system. She intentionally schedules matches in bigger-class tournaments even though she knows there’s a possibility the Bullpups could take some lumps.
“Coming out of those tough tournaments knocked our confidence some and we have steadily been building it back,” she said. “And we are starting to see the benefit of playing those tough teams.”
Opening with Rose Hill could set the tone. Even if the Bullpups can’t solve the Rockets’ puzzle, playing them close would give the team a good mind-set going into the final two pool matches against Independence and Andover Central.
MHS also has lost to Andover Central, though that came in the Newton Tournament where the Bullpups were forced to play four straight matches without a break. When MHS played the Jags, they had just come off a one-hour break, yet the scores were very close in both sets.
Realistically, the Central match could decide if the Bullpups come back for a second day. While Independence has a better record, its strength of schedule doesn’t compare to the Bullpups’.
Doile said she’ll have no qualms no matter what happens. She believes her team has saved its best for last, as the sub-state performance was the best it’s played this year. And while many of the players didn’t play key roles last year in the championship loss to Miege, they've still got enough big matches under their belts to be ready.
“There is enough experience on this team, I wouldn't consider them to be inexperienced,” Doile said.
The Bullpups may go as far as Rachel Dossett and Mandi Cooks take them. Dossett has the team’s top hitting percentage and Cooks leads in kills. Dossett also is the top server, while Jaycee Burghart has made big strides as the quarterback on the floor. Brooke Schrag tops the teams in digs and receive rating. Doile believes if the team doesn’t give away many free points, its chances spike considerably.