Leon, KS – The odds this season hardly ever favored the Leon-Bluestem Lady Lions volleyball team, and perhaps one could say never have favored them for the past few decades, but with a young group built on tight companionship and trust on the court, this year’s Lady Lions volleyball team beat the odds and ended a 35 year State Volleyball appearance drought.
“The girls all get along and support one another. We also don’t have just one key player. Everyone on the team is capable of playing every position which minimizes our weaknesses.” said Bluestem volleyball head coach Kasie Kieffer.
The Lady Lions were the #4 seed in the Udall Sub-State with a 16-20 record. With a sub-.500 record, it would be easy for people who don’t follow the Lady Lions to write them off as a first round sub-state exit. However, Coach Kieffer’s team knew they had let games slip away and were better than their record indicated.
“I would describe this season as positive, but we had a lot of ups and downs. We had a lot of great things happening, but our mistakes led to a lot of losses that should have been wins.” said Kieffer.
In fact, when asked about a defining moment, Coach Kieffer pointed to the first tournament of the year. In the Flinthills Tournament it would be a precursor to how the Lady Lions would clinch their first 2A State Volleyball appearance in over three decades.
It was a tournament the Lady Lions swept 5-0, taking all of the opponents in two sets. Coach Kieffer noted the team’s cohesiveness and positive attitude in that tournament that would play out again at the end of the regular season in sub-state and send them to the 2A state tournament.
Coach Kieffer feels that the biggest challenge the Lady Lions face going in to this week’s 2A State Volleyball tournament is her teams confidence in their own ability. The team at the beginning of the year made a core covenant that holds each individual accountable. It was worded as follows:
We are positive and encouraging to our teammates at all times.
We communicate and work together with all of our teammates.
We work hard and don’t give up on anything we do.
We get along and are loyal to all of our teammates and coaches, as well as loyal to our school.
We work consistently to improve and strive to be our best.
We show good sportsmanship and are respectful to coaches, opponents, officials, and anyone we come into contact with.
When we make a mistake we stay positive for the team and shake it off. (Dory)
We seek to get to know each of our teammates by interacting with them outside of practice.
Some key players for the Leon-Bluestem Lady Lions Volleyball team this year, according to Coach Kieffer are:
Junior #16 Natalie Bevan is our setter. She goes after everything and is a very driven individual. She makes plays happen and saves a lot of situations due to her quick reactions and great decisions.
Sophomore #10/12 Paiton Haga is our Libero. Paiton has amazing form and picks up a lot of digs as well as the majority of our receptions. We would not be able to run our offense without her amazing passes. She is a very consistant server that places her serves in key places to put the other team out of system.
Junior #2 Addyson Emmons is a middle and outside hitter that plays a full rotation. She is becoming a great hitter and really focuses on how to score and put the ball where her opponents aren’t.
Junior #8 Paige Fisher is our other middle hitter that plays a full rotation. She plays aggressive at the net, is a force in blocking, and never allows an overpass to get by her.
Freshman #6 Torrance Lovesee is a right side hitter that plays a full rotation. She has a very powerful hit and has started controlling the ball eliminating errors she had at the start of the season.
The youthful Lady Lions are the number 8 seed in the 2017 2A State Volleyball tournament and will begin play at 5:30PM against number 4 seed Smith Center, who is 33-8. They will play again Friday night at 7:30PM against number 5 seed Meade, who finished the year 32-8.
The Class 2A State Volleyball tournament is in Emporia at White Auditorium this Friday night.
(Photo courtesy of Tonya Haga)