One game into the championship match with Topeka Hayden Saturday at the Salina Bicentennial Center and the McPherson High School volleyball team was having flashbacks to the day before.
One game into the championship match with Topeka Hayden Saturday at the Salina Bicentennial Center and the McPherson High School volleyball team was having flashbacks to the day before. During pool play on Friday, MHS was stunned by the Wildcats in two straight sets, 20-25 and 23-25. The Bullpups began Saturday in the semifinals against a familiar foe in Rose Hill, but sent the Rockets packing to the consolation finals with a 2-0 (25-17, 28-26) win. MHS went on a 7-2 run to finish out game one strong, powered by four straight kills from senior Katelyn Loecker. After Rose Hill, it was onto the championship against Hayden, who defeated Louisburg 2-0 (25-23, 25-22). “We wanted Hayden, honestly,” Loecker said. “Because we wanted a second chance.” Unfortunately, Hayden took advantage of some Bullpup errors to come from behind and win 22-25 to take game one, marking three straight games the Wildcats had taken from MHS. “We told the team, ‘we’ve been there before and we’ve got to play like we’ve been there before,’” Head Coach Christy Doile said. “We weren’t backing down for anything.” Senior Briana Pontious called that loss a wake up call to her team. “I was thinking, ‘we need to get our heads out of our butts and play harder,” Pontious said. “We’ve got to go out and want it more than they did.” The Pups went on a 4-0 run to open up game two and eventually found themselves with a 20-14 advantage. However, Hayden would then fire off a 5-0 run to tie it up, but McPherson would pull it together to get the last five points and the 25-22 win. Game three would also find the two schools locked up 20-20 and would continue to be a back and forth affair until libero Abby Pedersen made a pass to setter Moria Pyle, who placed the ball perfectly for Paige Regnier to slam the ball home through the Wildcat defense and claim McPherson High’s first-ever volleyball state championship with a 25-23 win. Pontious said the drive to win that first championship was what kept the Bullpups in the match. “We just kept thinking, ‘this is our first volleyball state banner that going to hang in our gym,’” Pontious said. “We had to have more heart and drive.” Regnier led the Bullpups in the championship match with 19 kills, while Loecker clocked 25 kills total between the two matches. Pyle had a team-high 47 assists against Hayden. MHS loses Loecker, Pontious and Tashley Snyder to graduation next season, but nine players return from this championship squad in 2013.