McPherson High’s volleyball team lived up to its motto.
The Bullpups completed a tremendous 36-8 season on Saturday by taking third place in the Class 4A Division I State Tournament at Salina, their third Top-4 finish in four years.
“Our poster theme selected by our seniors in August was "Determined to Exceed Potential,” as we kept hearing it will be a rebuilding year,” MHS coach Christy Doile said. “The Newton Invite we looked great and even the preseason AVCTL we competed at a high level with such a brand-new lineup or look. Along the way we had a couple of tournament days, where for whatever reason, we were right at potential, we didn't finish or compete as well as we could to exceed potential. We did learn from those losses or lack of competing hard, because they didn't really like how it felt at the end of the day or even the next day or week.”
Doile said the Ottawa and McPherson tournaments tested the Bullpups’ resolve as they didn’t finish as high in those events as they expected, but it did provide motivation to get better.
“Those rough weekends at the Ottawa Invite and Mac Invite helped set our mentality for sub-state and state,” Doile said. “We were proud of our effort, core values and how we competed as a team, especially at the Newton Invite. They felt a difference and made it a conscious effort to get their mental game, cores and chemistry back in place at practice and matches. If there were physical skills that needed extra attention, we made sure to schedule them into practice and many times kids put in extra reps after practice to be more prepared.”
The Bullpups stormed through their sub-state without a push and Doile thought the team performed well for the most part in Salina last weekend.
“At sub-state and state, they competed so hard as a team and they exceeded potential under pressure,” Doile said. “They enjoyed the moment and got as much out of the experience as they could. Losing right off the bat to Louisburg in a long battle where we gave it our all was disappointing. We did reflect back at our first loss at the Preseason AVCTL after we lost to Andover Central that this loss doesn't define our season or our day. We have to put the loss behind us, be proud of our effort, make quick adjustments, move on and keep competing.”
The Bullpups had to win their next two matches to move on to Saturday.
“We met in the locker room after the Louisburg loss and brought that whole scenario up again,” Doile said. “The Louisburg loss will not define our season or our day.....and so on. We will keep competing and keep our eye on the prize. The prize that day is Final Four. When it seems tough, keep the prize in sight — the Final Four.”
The Bullpups then defeated DeSoto and Andale to advance on.
MHS lost to Hayden in the semifinals, but bounced back for a satisfying victory over Louisburg.
“For whatever reason, we didn't give Hayden our best shot for a full two sets,” Doile said. “We brought back that this loss doesn't define our day or season conversation again. You have got to find more in your tank and have no regrets after this third-place match. I challenged them, that might of been your worst team effort versus Hayden of any of the state games so far. They might be the best team you've played so far, but we weren't battling each serve like we were yesterday. I want to see you battle like yesterday, like you did at sub-state and at Newton Invite. You can't be selfish here. You've got to the put the team first and give everything you've got to this team. Don't think for second that you've done your part, you can find more."
The Louisburg victory may have been the best all year.
“When things are tough, we have to have more leadership,” Doile said. “Well, the 'Pups came out to compete. As we kind of joked through the season, ‘the real Bullpups’ came back for the third-place match. What a match, what a battle. It wasn't always pretty or perfect, but we were competing every serve. I was so proud of their effort and they deserved this third-place win. This team was the definition of a ‘team win’ as we played many kids and were trying to specialize as much as possible per rotation.”
Doile must replace seniors Hannah Marshall, Rhianna Smith, Taylor Metz and Taylor Neufeldt, but return All-Tournament selections and probable All-Staters Megan Pedersen and Magan Alexander, as well as Ashtyn Schieferecke and Addie Simon. The nucleus is there to equal or exceed potential in 2015.