LHS volleyball splits with Piper, Ward
Kansas City, Kan. Lansing High volleyball coach Julie Slater knew the 2006 volleyball season would have its share of ups and downs with such a young squad, but one thing she never expected was to see her squad quit.
That's why Slater was so saddened Tuesday night after her squad struggled to beat Bishop Ward in three games and then shut down too early in a three-game loss to Piper at Ward High.
Lansing (17-8 overall, 2-2 Kaw Valley League) gave a lackadaisical effort to squeak past Ward, 16-25, 25-20, 25-13, but Slater was most troubled by a 25-16, 16-25, 17-25 loss to rival Piper in which the Lions seemed content to coast past the rival Pirates and, in the process, turned an easy victory into a devastating loss.
"I was disappointed tonight because they gave up, and early," Slater said. "I can't be happy with that."
There wasn't much for Slater to be happy about in either match.
Lansing waited to turn up the intensity until Ward was on the verge of a two-game sweep. The Cyclones capitalized on an ace and a handful of early Lion miscues to take a 6-1 lead in game one. At one point the Lions pulled within 13-10, but the Cyclones closed out the game by doing little more than tipping the ball over the net.
Ward started fast again in game two and took a 5-1 lead before LHS coach Julie Slater called a timeout. Slater's message was clear: Wake up.
The Lions returned from the pause seemingly focused. Jessie Delinger pounded a pair of kills, Brittney Lang fired an ace and Kate Courtney blocked a shot at the net. A kill by Sara Logan and another by Delinger tied the match at 9-9. Two more ties ensued before a Cyclone hitting error and a Katie Nietzke ace put the Lions ahead 17-15. They never trailed again in the game.
After nearly throwing the match away with a slow start, the Lions wasted no time seizing control of game three. They took an early 7-6 lead and then rode Lang's serve to an 8-0 run that served as the knockout punch.
Early in the Piper match Lansing looked like a team that had learned its lesson about staying focused. The Lions and Pirates slugged to an 8-8 tie early in game one before the Lions rode Milnark's serve on a 5-0 run that effectively put the game out of reach.
Lansing took a 10-8 lead in game two and seemed destined to roll to an easy two-game victory. Instead of closing out the match, however, the Lions shut down altogether. They made four straight hitting errors, routinely set the ball right above the net for the Pirates to kill and stopped communicating altogether. Piper scored nine points straight and rattled off a 14-2 run.
Piper rattled off a 13-6 run fueled largely by Lansing miscues to win game three easily.
"For the first time in a long time I was disappointed with their effort," Slater said. "I was disappointed because early in the third game I knew what the outcome was going to be. I could feel it, because they weren't playing to win. They were more focused on their individual mistakes and they could not get out of that."
The sight was shocking, given how steady LHS played Thursday at Pleasant Ridge and Saturday at the Louisburg Tournament. The Lions won nine out of 10 matches during that stretch.
"We took a huge step forward (last week), and we took a step back tonight," Slater said. "But we're going to keep working at it and we're going to try to keep moving forward."
Lansing next plays at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Mill Valley in Shawnee against Tonganoxie and Mill Valley.