The second her players walked inside the Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina, coach Shelby Kraus wanted them to embrace the opportunity in front of them.
It was the first Derby team to advance to state volleyball in 17 years, but as a team that she saw win its first league title in four years, she saw an opportunity to show it belonged on the biggest stage.
While Derby split its first two matches against SM Northwest (29-27, 25-23) and Gardner-Edgerton (19-25, 25-23, 19-25), the door to the state semifinals stood open with its final match in pool play against Washburn Rural.
The Panthers (21-25, 14-25) needed a win against the Junior Blues to advance, but fell short in a sweep.
“I told them they have nothing to hang their heads about,” Kraus said. “They won league, they won some great matches this year and made it to state. That’s an honor in and of itself.”
Washburn Rural will advance to face ‘Pool A’ runner-up BV North in the state semifinals . Gardner-Edgerton will play ‘Pool A’ winner Blue Valley.
Kraus couldn’t have asked for a better start to the final pool play match, jumping out to an 8-3 lead in the opening set. Washburn Rural called a timeout after cutting its deficit to 9-5. However, it went on a 17-5 run to build a 20-13 lead.
Derby, who finished the season 34-10, answered its opposition’s push as senior Danika Sinclair cut its hole to 21-20 with an ace. Washburn Rural scored four of the final five points to take the set 25-21.
A mixed bag of errors gave Derby its biggest deficit of its first two matches against Gardner-Edgerton, trailing 19-13 in the opening set. A tip from junior Lexi Pitts was able to cut the Blazer lead to 20-17, but it still closed a 25-19 win in the opening set.
A kill from junior Antigone Colon gave Derby a 12-8 in the second stanza, but that closed to a one-point lead halfway through the set.
Gardner-Edgerton took a timeout after a kill attempt went out-of-bounds to make it 20-17, Derby. The Panther opponent then went on a three-point run to tie it at 20 apiece.
Sophomore Tatum Boettjer’s kill tied the match at 23-23 and after taking a one-point lead, Derby took the set after another kill attempt went out-of-bounds.
The Blazers jumped out to a pair of eight-point leads in the third set before the Panthers closed it to 21-17. They wouldn’t be able to complete the comeback, falling 25-19 for the second time in the match.
After SM Northwest tied the first set at the start of pool play at 21 apiece, the two teams tied four more times before Derby won on a junior Sophie Connor kill.
Kraus’ crew jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the second set, leading to a SMNW timeout. That lead grew to seven points before its opponent went on a run to take a 14-13 lead.
Derby responded, however, to take a 20-16 lead after a block from Boettjer and Colon.
Connor’s kill wrapped up Derby’s only sweep and a 25-23 second-set win.
Class 6A state volleyball (Nov. 1)—
No. 4 Blue Valley def. No. 5 BV North (25-17, 25-18)
No. 1 Garden City def. No. 8 Lawrence Free State (25-13, 25-20)
No. 4 Blue Valley def. No. 8 Lawrence Free State (25-14, 25-16)
No. 5 BV North def. No. 1 Garden City (25-15, 25-21)
No. 5 BV North def. No. 8 Lawrence Free State (25-19, 25-17)
No. 4 Blue Valley def. No. 1 Garden City (25-17, 31-29)
No. 3 Derby def. No. 6 SM Northwest (29-27, 25-23)
No. 2 Washburn Rural def. No. 7 Gardner-Edgerton (27-25, 25-19)
No. 7 Gardner-Edgerton def. No. 3 Derby (25-19, 23-25, 25-19)
No. 2 Washburn Rural def. No. 6 SM Northwest (25-15, 25-17)
No. 6 SM Northwest def. No. 7 Gardner-Edgerton (25-22, 22-25, 25-18)
No. 2 Washburn Rural def. No. 3 Derby (25-21, 25-14)