ANDOVER – For the third season in a row, the McPherson High School volleyball team was one win away from making it to state but came up short in the sub-state finals. The Bullpups lost to Andover High School in the Class 5A sub-state finals, 19-25, 19-25.

The Bullpups went in as the No. 6 seed on Saturday. In the semifinals, they were in a tight battle with 11th seed Goddard-Eisenhower but came through with a two-set win. (25-21, 25-19)

"We played very well against a good Eisenhower team. Set one, we didn't have the lead until the end of the set at 21-20. I had to call a timeout when we were down by three in the middle of the set," McPherson coach Christy Doile said. "We finished the set very strong. Set two, we jumped out to a big lead, and Eisenhower came back, took the lead 14-13. At that point, we took control of the match. We got a lead, and we finished the set. As a team, we had talked about handling runs, limiting them to three or less, and we did that. As a team, we talked about the next ball mentality, and they did a great job of that. We also wanted to finish if we got a lead, and we did that."

As the Bullpups took on Andover in the finals, Doile mentioned how loaded and experienced the Vikings were.

"Andover had five seniors and a D-I beach volleyball sophomore within their starting lineup," Doile said. They also were 5A sub-state champs the previous season."

The Bullpups struggled to get ahead of the Vikings during the first set. McPherson trailed as close as two points.

"They scored immediately after the timeout," Doile said. "Andover served tough, kept us out of (our) system, and they added several weapons at the net to defend. They had multiple hitters that swung hard and were able to mix up their shots. A positive for us, we did a good job of getting up on their quick middle hitters. I was proud of our effort, and we never gave up. We were saying all the right things, being coachable, and they truly gave great effort."

Rhian Swanson led the Bullpups with 20 kills. Cassie Cooks, who had 15 kills, hit .500, and Katie Berg had .240. Taylor Casebeer came up big in digs as she led with 21. Brette Doile had 43 assists and an ace as a server. As the season comes to an end, the Doile made a reflection on her three seniors, Cooks, Andrea Sweat and Brittani Burgess.

"Burgess did a fine job of being a great role model and being a wonderful teammate," Doile said. "She had limited playing time but was committed to helping this team succeed. I was impressed with her selflessness, and I enjoyed having her with us every day.

Sweat finally got back on the volleyball court, and we were so thrilled to have her back for her senior season. She ended up being a six rotation player for us, and in her last two matches, she passed a 2.21. She tended to be a player other teams tried to pick on at times in receive, she stayed mentally tough and got the ball to target today. Sweat is a happy, positive, level headed player on our court. We will miss her height in the middle of the net and her upbeat attitude.

Cooks was named "best leader" of the Washburn team camp. Cooks was our team leader. We will miss her explosive hits and her loud, confident voice. Cooks was a three-year starter for us. She hit .500 in her last two matches of her career, which is absolutely outstanding."

McPherson finished its season with a 28-12 record.

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