HESSTON — Hesston High’s volleyball team wants to take the final step.
The Swathers advanced to the Class 3A state championship match last year, losing to Silver Lake in a thrilling three-setter after having defeated the Eagles in pool play the day before.
And as it worked out, Hesston and Silver Lake will again meet this year in Friday’s pool play at Emporia’s White Auditorium and who knows, it could be a championship rematch.
“We know what to expect from the state tournament experience, having been there the previous three seasons, so our success this year will be based on how well we can create positive energy and not let mistakes get us down, and be able play up to our potential against good competition every match,” said Hesston coach Jason Peters, whose team is 37-3 on the season despite playing a brutal schedule.
It’s a familiar field, as six of the eight teams are returning.
“The 3A state tournament this year will be very competitive again,” Peters said. “Our pool will be tough, with Silver Lake and Nemaha Central as traditionally very strong teams that are having successful seasons. Wellsville, Cheney, Hesston, Silver Lake, Nemaha Central and TMP Thomas More Prep) were all at the state tournament last season, and Beloit was there the previous year as well, so there will be a lot of strong programs with state experience this year.”
The Swathers have a veteran team, led by the dominating Kailey Jo Ince, who can pound kills with the best in the state. Alaina Dunlavy is the uber-efficient setter who quarterbacks the team, while Mia Loganbill joins Ince as a powerful hitter. Rylie Schilling and Talby Duerksen are the middle hitters, Jada Mininger and Kallie Hamilton are right-side hitters, with Elise Kaiser the libero and Michaela Vogt the main defensive specialists, augmented by Jules Toews and Emily Koehn.
The Swathers have to be ready from the get-go as they open at 8:30 against Erie, which is 33-6. Then comes the much-anticipated match with Silver Lake (32-6) at 10:30, with the day wrapping up at 1:30 against No. 2-seed Nemaha Central (40-3).
Saturday’s semifinals start at 10 a.m.
Thomas More Prep (38-2) has the best record in the other pool and is joined by Wellsville (29-11) Cheney (34-5) and Beloit (34-5) as this is definitely the lesser of the pools. Cheney was third in the state last year.