EMPORIA — Jason Peters could not have asked for anything more from his Hesston High volleyball team.
A year after taking second in the Class 3A State Tournament, the Swathers returned with a somewhat new cast and were still just one victory away from again playing for the title.
But the Swathers lost in straight sets in the semifinals Saturday to eventual champion Thomas More Prep of Hays before storming back to defeat Nemaha Central for third.
The Swathers finished the year with a school-record 40 wins (40-5), two better than the previous mark of 38 from last year. It was the fourth year in a row the team had qualified.
Peters was especially pleased that his team bounced back for third after such a devastating loss to TMP.
“It was a disappointing loss to know that we didn’t play our best match when we had a good chance to get back to the championship match this year, but to their credit, TMP played well all day Saturday on their way to winning the state title, much better than they had looked on Friday,” Peters said. “We had to regroup and somehow come back from the disappointment of losing the semifinal to play the third-place match against Nemaha Central. The girls were able to find enough energy and determination to leave everything on the court and won a close first set after falling behind 0-4 at the start. In the second set, everything was going well for us as we dominated from the beginning and allowed Nemaha only one point on their serve. We were able to finish out a successful season on a high note playing well in our final match.”
The Swathers’ Alaina Dunlavy, Kailey Jo Ince and Mia Loganbill were selected to the All-Tourney Team.
Even though the Swathers came oh so close, it’s a team Peters will forever remember and the seniors led the way.
“Our senior class leaves us having accomplished some incredible things throughout their high school career,” Peters said. “As freshmen, they lost only one match for the season. Several of them have been part of the varsity team for a number of years, where the varsity qualified for state for all four years and has a combined record of 146-29 over that time, the best 4-year winning percentage in the history of the program. Seniors Alaina Dunlavy, Kailie Hamilton, Kailey Jo Ince, Mia Loganbill and Micheala Vogt have spent many hours in the gym over their careers, helping to raise the expectations for Swather volleyball over the past four seasons and set the bar high for future teams to work toward.”
The list of accomplishments was a mile long.
“We won the Council Grove tournament for the first time after defeating several ranked 4A schools and won the Clearwater tournament for the first time since 2001, defeating Rose Hill in the finals, the two-time 4A Division I state champions” Peters said. “We finished in the top two of the league for the sixth straight year, a league that included the No. 1-ranked 3A team for much of the season and the second-place team in 4A Division II. All five of our losses were to teams ranked in the Top 5 of their respective classes and we defeated a total of 13 ranked opponents throughout the year.”
The team numbers also represented what it accomplished.
The Swathers set rally-scoring-era season school records for total kills (1,385), total assists (1,315), hitting efficiency (0.338 – previous best was 0.244), kill percentage (46.8 percent) and total blocks (171). The team also tied for the most matches played (45) of any team in Swather volleyball history and won 24 consecutive sets from Sept. 26 through Oct. 10, another school record.
Whereas the focus was on the team, there were some individual marks that are in rarefied air.
• Ince finishes her career with the Top 3 marks for total kills in a season, with 634 (2016), 551 (2017) and 524 (2015). She also finishes with the Top 2 averages for kills per set in a season, with 6.28 (2016) and 5.62 (2017).
• Dunlavy set a new school record for assists in a season, with 1,109, breaking her previous record of 974 from 2016, and her now third-best season mark of 876 assists from 2016. She also set a school record for assists per set with 11.32, breaking Megan Voth’s record of 10.01 from 2013.
• Talby Duerksen and Rylie Schilling now are tied for the school record for most total blocks in a season, as each one has recorded 83. The record book for hitting efficiency was completely rewritten this season, as five of the Top 15 marks are now from the 2017 season.
• Ince set a new season hitting efficiency record at 0.405, breaking her own mark of 0.374 from 2016. However, Duerksen also broke the previous record and is now No. 2 with 0.389, and Schilling surpassed the previous record and is now No. 3 at 0.379.
• Jada Mininger finished the season with the No. 11 mark in hitting efficiency at 0.280, and Dunlavy is at No. 12 with 0.277 this year. Loganbill’s 54 aces this season rank No. 10 in that category, and Ince and Schilling rank No. 2 and 5, respectively, in serving percentage, with both serving at 97 percent for the season. Ince and Elise Kaiser finished No. 2 and No. 10, respectively, in serve receive percentage, with Ince passing 98 percent and Kaiser 95 percent for the year.