Lions win home tourney for first time since 2003
The last time the Lansing High volleyball team hoisted the first-place plaque at the Lansing Invitational was back in 2003, and it had been three years since LHS last made the finals of the home tournament.
After a four-year championship drought and three-year absence from the finals, Lansing reclaimed its place atop the tournament standings on Saturday when it knocked off three Class 6A powers, posted a 6-0 record and won the championship in dominant fashion.
It took a total team effort, but Lansing relentlessly unleashed its arsenal of weapons while steamrolling through the competition to win the tournament title. LHS won all of its matches in two games. That included a 25-15, 25-13 dismantling of Class 6A No. 4-ranked Shawnee Mission North in the final match of pool play and a 25-11, 25-21 victory over Class 6A vote-getter Olathe Northwest in the semifinals. Lansing capped its day with a 25-22, 25-17 throttling of previously unbeaten Class 6A vote-getter Shawnee Mission West in the finals.
LHS coach Julie Slater, who celebrated her 50th birthday Saturday, said she wasn't surprised to see her players perform so well.
"I certainly know they're absolutely capable of what they did," she said with a smile.
"I think we can compete with just about anybody this year," she added. "But it's going to be tough. We're going to have to play at the top of our game all the time."
With the exception of a few brief lulls, the Lions were on top of their game all day. Front-line hitters Lisa Angello, Brittney Lang and Rachel Milnark thundered kills all day while Sara Logan and Erin Griffen provided additional offensive support, Angello dazzled with her jump serve, Logan was a defensive force on combination blocks, Julia Bates and Kristen Jensen ran a fluid offense, and Breanne Sanders, Katie Nietzke and Morgan Chiles provided steady defensive support on the back row.
Teamwork was the obvious key, and Angello said the Lions understand that is a critical element to their success.
"We're strong everywhere, and it shows," she said.
Lansing had no trouble cruising through its first three pool play matches. It overpowered Sabetha in the opener, 25-6, 25-11, and then rolled to a 25-19, 25-18 victory over Basehor-Linwood. Up next was Louisburg, but the Lions used seven Angello aces, a series of blocks by Logan, Lang and Jensen, and a flurry of kills by Lang to claim a 25-13, 25-23 victory.
The match with Shawnee Mission North was expected to be the toughest challenge of the day, but Lansing won with ease. From a Logan-Lang combo block for the first point of game one to a game-winning ace from Milnark to close game two, the Lions clicked.
The momentum continued against Olathe Northwest. An ace by Bates capped a 9-3 run to start the match, and the Lions never let up the rest of the way.
The finals match with Shawnee Mission West was simply a continuation of the previous matches as Lansing used a full-court attack - from front-row power to back-row athleticism - to win both short points and long volleys en route to the lopsided victory.
Angello turned in one of the more dominant performances in LHS volleyball history when she recorded 18 kills in the finals. Of course, she was complimented by 10 kills from Lang and three apiece from Logan and Milnark.
Jensen was so proud of her teammates after the championship match that she struggled to contain her excitement. An ear-to-ear grin never left her face.
"Everybody's played in the offseason. Everybody knows their position," she said. "When everybody is in sync and everybody gets going, we're unstoppable. We really are."
For the Lions, the tournament championship was the first of a series of goals this season. In addition to winning the Lansing Tournament, they also want to win their tournaments at Louisburg and Anderson County. There's also the Kaw Valley League championship, the substate tournament and then - if all goes well - state.
"We have goals already set that we hope to accomplish, and this was one of them," Lang said. "We just want to keep raising the bar even higher each time."
LIONS SWEEP HOME QUAD
Lansing was back in action Tuesday evening at a home quadrangular, and it won all three of its matches in two games. LHS defeated Bonner Springs, 25-3, 25-7, and then claimed a 25-17, 25-20 victory over Spring Hill before closing out the night with a 25-17, 25-19 victory over Gardner-Edgerton.
The Lions had a balanced offensive attack all night. Jensen finished the night with 52 assists and Bates added 24. Lang had 32 kills, Angello had 26 and Milnark added 13.
Lansing (11-0) next plays at 5 p.m. today at Shawnee Mission West against West, Olathe North and Olathe East. After that, the Lions will be back at home at 5 p.m. Tuesday for Senior Night against Perry-Lecompton and Basehor-Linwood in their first Kaw Valley League matches of the season.