"If you are a volleyball fan or just watching volleyball for the first time, this is a team you want to watch."

HUTCHINSON — The McPherson High School volleyball team opened its 2017 season competing in the Hutchinson tournament over the weekend and came away tied for fifth place with a 4-2 record. The Bullpups bookended losses to Andover and Newton with four wins to end the tournament tied with Maize South.

McPherson started the day with a tough 25-23, 25-15 loss to Andover, the eventual tournament champion, in pool play. Mac battled tough in the first set before a hitting slump led to a straight-sets loss. Mac then easily handled Campus, 25-15 and 25-19 and Dodge City, 25-9 and 25-16 to finish pool play at 2-1 to move on to the battle of the two's on Saturday afternoon.

The Pups looked very strong in opening up the afternoon with a win over Andover Central, a team Coach Christy Doile reminded her squad ended Mac's state title run last season. With an epic come from behind win in set two, the Bullpups avenged last year's loss with a 25-11, 25-23 sweep.

"We were so close that Friday at state," Doile told her team. "You know that feeling that just makes you mad, that made you sad last year, please play with that feeling in mind today." "Our girls responded with an epic come from behind win," Doile said. "Great win as we fought back to win set two."

Next up was Derby, a large high school with a great volleyball tradition. The Panthers greeted Mac with a 6'5" middle but, the Pups handled Derby's bigness in stride in a straight-set 25-18, 25-20 win.

The battle of undefeated pool-play teams would be the final match of the day for McPherson, as they faced a Newton team that was just as bitter with their early-tournament loss to Goddard as the Pups were about their loss to Andover. Mac would win the first set 25-22 but Newton made the necessary adjustments needed to slow down Elle Barrett and the Pups to take the next two sets 25-20 and 25-18.

"The absolute number one thing I take away from the weekend is these girls willingness to compete and their love of the game and their ability to be coached," said Doile. "As a coach this group wants to please, embraces the correction even if it isn't what they want to hear. If you are a volleyball fan or just watching volleyball for the first time, this is a team you want to watch."

Barrett led the Bullpups on the day with 51 kills. Michaela Bowers added 21 kills and 47 digs. Bailea Crist had 36 digs and nine aces, while Jaycee Burghart was credited with 111 assists and Andrea Sweat added 13 blocks.

McPherson fans will get a chance to watch this team Tuesday as the Bullpups host a triangular with Mulvane and Wellington at The Roundhouse on the campus of McPherson High School. Mac will play Wellington at 5 p.m. followed by Mulvane versus Wellington at 6:15 p.m. McPherson against Mulvane will close out the night at 7:30 p.m. Both varsity and junior varsity will be competing, with the varsity on the South court and JV on the North.

Contact Matt Cole by email at mcole@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @MacSentinel.