McPHERSON — The McPherson High School volleyball team needed one win to clinch the AVCTL Division III league title. In Tuesday's triangular, the Bullpups did that in two sets, beating El Dorado High School, 25-6, 25-14.
However, McPherson had to earn its second victory over Buhler after coming from behind in the final stretch of set three. McPherson got a come-from-behind win over the Lady Crusaders, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23.
After sweeping their home triangular and winning the league title, the Bullpups improve to 28-3. Buhler falls to 15-10 and El Dorado drops to 4-20.
Both McPherson and Buhler had their warm-up matches against El Dorado before the two rivals faced off in the third.
Buhler was led by senior Hadley Waldren, who put up a total of 11 aces (nine in a row) over the Wildcats, 25-3, 25-15.
"I'm very pleased with her performance," Buhler head coach Deedra Emel said. "We put a lot on Hadley's shoulders, and she's finding a way to rise up to be that leader. When you're 6-foot playing six rotations in every serve and having to block everywhere, that's tough. She's doing a fantastic job."
McPherson opened the triangular with El Dorado and had a 20-0 lead in the first set. El Dorado was able to double its score in the second set, but McPherson still was in control throughout the match.
Once Buhler and McPherson faced off, it became a battle of lead changes. Neither team was able to hold a big lead for very long.
In Set 1, both teams went back and forth and it was tied eight times during the match.
McPherson picked up to two straight points off of Rhian Swanson's back-to-back kills. Buhler responded with a 5-0 run and was ahead 20-15.
While the Bullpups caught up to the Crusaders, it was not enough to win the first set. MHS head coach Christy Doile had a game plan in having Lauren Labertew matched up with Waldren as she explains.
"They got kids who can play really well," Doile said. "They have Hadley, who can hit it well. I was trying to keep Lauren (Labertew) on her because the last time Megan (Lulloff) matched up with her. So I spun it with hopes of getting Lauren. She has more experience than Karter (Alvord). Otherwise, Karter was going to be up with her more and I didn't want to put too much pressure on Karter. I wanted to have Lauren get touches and help us that way. "
McPherson came back in the second set and forced a third set to decide the match. The Lady Crusaders were off to a fast start when they picked up a 3-0 lead, but McPherson came back with a 5-0 run.
Both teams would battle back and forth for the rest of the night. One would make a run and get a lead, the other would eventually catch up.
The Lady Crusaders were on the verge of stunning the Bullpups on their home court, as they were ahead 22-18. That's when McPherson made its final run, led by the serving of Katie Berg.
McPherson would go on to score seven of the last eight points to close out the win over Buhler.
"We served well to get them out their system," Doile said. "I think that's how we came back a bit, and we have to get our touches."
As Buhler had the match won and was hoping for an upset, it ended up a heartbreaking loss. While the Lady Crusaders were saddened by their defeat, Emel was all smiles as she was pleased with the competitiveness by her girls.
"I had so much fun," Deedra Emel said. "It's great to have tight matches. Both teams playing at a high level and I'm really proud of the girls. They are really learning how to come together and just getting a step better every time. I think we've been working hard in the last couple of weeks. They came out and left everything on the floor, where we executing a game plan, and you know what, that's what you got to do, and I'm proud of how we played tonight."
With one more week before sub-state, a win is crucial due to seeding purposes.
The Lady Crusaders will compete in its last tournament in Abilene this Saturday at 9 a.m. Then will conclude their in season at Winfield High School in a triangular with the Lady Vikings and Augusta High School.
McPherson will host its final triangular against Mulvane High School and Wellington High School next Tuesday.