COUNCIL GROVE — Hesston High’s volleyball team faced only bigger-school competition on Saturday in the Council Grove Invitational and defeated them all to win the championship.
The Swathers, now 25-2, were 5-0 on the day and didn’t lose a set in an overwhelming performance.
“This was our second year attending the Council Grove tournament, and it is a great opportunity to see new teams and teams with strong programs and traditions,” Hesston coach Jason Peters said. “All of the teams at the tournament are in 4A Division I or II, with the exception of Hesston and Council Grove, which are 3A.”
Hesston was 3-0 in pool play with wins over Jefferson West (25-8, 25-19), Wamego (25-19, 25-22) and Clearwater (25-14, 25-22).
The Swathers then toppled possible Class 4A state qualifier Abilene in the semis (25-7, 25-18) and completed its total domination with a 25-10, 25-14 rout of Santa Fe Trail in the finals.
“We started the morning playing Jefferson West, who was a state qualifier last year,” Peters said. “We started the first set strong, jumping out to an early lead and holding them to only one point on their serve. In the second set, we started slow and struggled with our passing, but went on a couple of runs in the middle of the set to pull away.”
Wamego is another team with a strong tradition.
“Wamego is a talented team that is very scrappy and has several strong hitters,” Peters said. “We scored only one point on our first six servers and fell behind 13-7 and 15-11 as we were slow to move to the ball and did not pass well. We then stepped up our defense and went on a 10-0 run to lead 21-15 and were able to finish out the set. In the second set, we fell behind 14-18, and were still behind 17-21 before we went on an 8-1 run to finish out the match. We had some great defensive digs and blocks to get us back in the match in both sets, and made huge progress by being able to come from behind to finish out a set, which we haven’t been able to do well so far this season.”
The Swathers put fatigue aside to beat Clearwater.
“The Clearwater match was our third match in a row and we were very tired at that point,” Peters said. “We made four errors and sent over several overpasses to fall behind 0-6 at the start, but were able to come back and refocus. We fell behind again in the second set, but made a late run to win the match and get a chance for a break.”
Abilene was thought to perhaps be the toughest test, but the Swathers avenged last year’s loss in this tournament.
“In the semifinals we faced an Abilene team that was ranked No. 5 in Class 4A Division I last week and had beaten us in the finals of this tournament last year,” Peters said. “They had to shuffle their normal lineup a bit for the tournament, but had been playing well up to that point. We came back from our lunch break energized and jumped out to an early lead in the first set, never allowing them to score a single point on their serve. We had to work a little harder in the second set, but were able to continue to attack at a high percentage and pull ahead midway through to advance to the championship.”
Santa Fe Trail couldn’t slow down the Swathers in the finals.
“Santa Fe Trail advanced to the championship after a close three-set semifinal with Wamego, so had had an advantage in that we had a bit more of a break after winning our semifinal in two,” Peters said. “They were ranked No. 7 in 4A Division II last week and have two strong outside hitters who are also their setters. We passed well, served aggressively to keep them out of system and had a hitting efficiency of 0.511 to stay in control for the entire match to win the tournament title.”
Peters said this will help the team down the road.
“Overall, this was a great tournament for us to see good competition and force us to play at a higher level, which we did throughout the day,” Peters said.
Hesston’s Kailey Jo Ince was named the tourney MVP for the second year in a row. She had 58 kills in the five matches. Alaina Dunlavy had 117 assists on the day. Elise Kaiser had 30 digs.
Hesston goes to Halstead on Tuesday