Seaman edges LHS in substate again
Topeka If not for the smile that creased Jessie Delinger's face, one might have thought the Lansing High senior was devastated by her team's loss to Topeka Seaman in the Class 5A substate volleyball finals Saturday.
Delinger certainly was disappointed. But devastated? Hardly. She couldn't be, considering Lansing played its best match of the season in the loss to Seaman.
The result - a 25-20, 25-17 loss - wasn't what the Lions wanted, but the way they played was proof the youth-laden squad had improved by leaps and bounds during a challenging season.
"At the beginning of the season everyone was talking about 'Are they going to click? Are they going to be a good team?" Delinger said. "And we showed it. We clicked. That was our last match, and we proved everybody wrong."
Nine of Lansing's 12 players were new to varsity this year, and the Lions were slow to adjust as they limped to an 8-6 record after their first four outings. They closed the season by winning 18 of their final 22 matches, however, and notched a 26-10 record.
Still, they wanted one more win, and they wanted it against Seaman. Vikings 6-foot-6 senior Breanna Lewis proved to be too overpowering, however. She slammed 10 kills in the match and altered numerous shots with her imposing presence at the net.
"We knew that we could play against that, and we tried not to let her size intimidate us," LHS junior Sara Logan said. "I don't think we did, but it was hard to get up those hits against that."
LHS jumped to a 3-1 lead in game one before Seaman answered with four straight points. Lansing never led again in the game, but the teams traded points most of the way and the Lions pulled within a point four times and threatened to take charge of the game. Trailing 18-14, Delinger and sophomore Brittney Lang combined for a block against Lewis. A kill by Lang, another by freshman Rachel Milnark and a Lang ace pulled the Lions within 21-20, but the Vikings used two Lansing hitting errors and two Lewis kills to end the game.
"That first game, after it was done, I felt like it was the best game we played all year," Logan said. "Even though we lost, it was probably the best."
Lansing jumped on Seaman early in game two thanks to a pair of aces from senior Kate Courtney and two kills by Delinger. The Vikings battled back with a pair of Lewis kills, but the Lions still held a 13-11 lead midway through the game.
A kill by 6-foot-1 hitter Aubree Gustin and another by Lewis sparked a Seaman run. Lansing lost its focus for a moment, and the Vikings' run escalated to an 11-0 spurt. Suddenly the Lions' two-point lead was a 22-13 deficit.
"For one play we stopped talking and we lost our focus," Lang said. "(After that), we weren't in the game."
Lansing made a 3-0 run behind a kill and ace from Courtney and another Delinger kill, but Seaman's lead remained safe.
LHS coach Julie Slater said she was impressed with the effort and heart her team brought to the court in its final performance.
"For a game and a half they were incredible," she said. "It was awesome : just awesome. And then we made some unforced errors and (Seaman) got on a roll, but that happens in volleyball. It's a game of momentum. You've got to be able to play at that level and hold it up there, and we just faltered."
Prior to playing Seaman, Lansing beat Bonner Springs in the semifinals, 25-18, 25-14.
Bonner opened game one on a 5-0 run before Lansing responded with a 5-0 run. Bonner answered right back with a 7-0 run and took a 12-5 lead, but three straight Bravette net violations contributed to a 6-0 run that brought the Lions back. Senior Kate Courtney pounded four kills down the stretch and freshman Breanne Sanders fired back-to-back aces as the Lions pulled away.
Game two was just as close for a while. Bonner was within 14-12 before Lansing unleashed a match-ending 11-2 run and advanced to the substate finals.
In the other semifinal, Seaman made quick work of Topeka West, 25-13, 25-12.
The loss to Seaman in the substate finals marked the second straight year the Vikings have ended the Lions' season one match short of the state tournament. The match was the final one for seniors Elizabeth Cristiano, Riann Deere, Courtney and Delinger, but eight underclassmen with extensive varsity experience will return in 2007. Logan said the returners hope to end the Seaman hex next year.
"Next year we're going to come out and we're going to get revenge on these people because we want to make it to state," Logan said. "I feel bad because these seniors didn't make it to state. I want to make it next year, and I think that we will."