Pete Logan (with contributions from John McIntire)
The Gardner-Edgerton High School volleyball team swept both of their opponents at the Kansas 6A Substate Volleyball Championship on Saturday, beating Shawnee Mission East 25-15, 25-13 and Olathe West 25-17, 25-10 and earning a spot in the Kansas 6A State Championship Tournament to be held in Salina this weekend. Making the win even sweeter for the Blazers was the fact that they were able to do it in front of a home crowd in the GEHS Gymnasium.
As the 3 seed in the East Region of Kansas 6A Volleyball, GEHS — with a season record of 24-9 coming in — earned the right to host a Substate championship. That meant they would play the Substate tourney’s first match of the afternoon against 14th-seeded Shawnee Mission East who came in with a record of 10-21.
In the first game of the afternoon, the Blazers and Lancers traded points until the game was tied at 4-4. Then, with sophomore Kiersten Markos serving, GEHS rolled off 4 straight points, including a service ace from Markos. East pulled to within 2 points three times, but the score became 11-8 Blazers with a kill from junior middle hitter Raven Boone during a Lancer serve. Senior libero Holly Maska then came up to serve, and the Blazers ran off 4 more points, including 2 kills from junior middle hitter Kendra Wait. The Lancers closed to within 4 at 16-12, but another run of 4 straight during senior outside hitter Morgan McIntire’s service — including a service ace by the senior — put the Blazers up 20-12. Finally, the game was put away when — at 24-15 Blazers — sophomore outside hitter Jaylyne Bell drilled a kill against the Lancers and gave GEHS a 25-15 Game One victory.
In Game Two, East jumped out to a 3-0 and then a 6-2 lead. However, the Blazers started edging back into it. Down 8-6 to the Lancers, the Blazers went on a roll of 9 straight points during another Maska service. McIntire paced the Trailblazers during the run with 3 emphatic kills. By the end of the roll, Gardner-Edgerton had taken a commanding 15-8 lead. The Lancers tried to creep back into it at 15-10, but kills from Wait and sophomore outside hitter Gracen Mealman sparked another 4-0 GEHS run. With the score 22-13, the Blazers went on a gameclosing 3-0 streak, with all 3 points coming on GEHS kills — 2 from Wait and 1 from Bell.
Bell led the way against the Lancers with 7 kills, followed by McIntire and Wait with 6 each, and Mealman with 3. McIntire, Markos, and junior Lauryn Karr each recorded one ace.
In Match Two of the tourney, the 6th-seeded Olathe West Owls (21-12) faced off against the 11th-seeded Shawnee Mission South Raiders (14-18). Olathe West came out victorious, winning in 3 sets — 24-26, 25-20, 25-21.
That meant that the Trailblazers would take on the Owls in the Substate Championship match. The Blazers asserted themselves early, jumping out to 3-0, 7-2, and 9-4 leads. During that stretch GEHS received 3 points off blocks from Boone. However, after falling behind the Blazers 9-4, the Owls rattled off 3 straight points, including 2 service aces from senior Bethany Allison. Gardner-Edgerton responded with a 6-0 streak, with 5 of the points coming during a Wait service. Wait contributed an ace and a kill during the run. Later, with kills from Bell and Boone, the Blazers scored 3 straight to go up 20-11. West closed to within 6 at 21-15, thanks to a 3-0 run in which Allison recorded a block and a kill. Gardner-Edgerton responded with a 3-0 streak of their own to get to match point at 24-15. The Owls scored the next two points — including another ace from Allisonto make it 24-17. However, a service ace from the Owls gave GEHS a 25-17 Game One win.
Game Two was not as competitive. The Blazers dominated 25-10 with more emphatic kills from McIntire and Wait, a strong defensive net performance from Boone and Markos, and consistent serving from Maska and sophomore Ava Bojanski.
The 26-9 Trailblazers will now head to Salina for the Kansas 6A Volleyball State Championships, to be held at Tony’s Pizza Auditorium on Friday, November 1st, and Saturday, November 2nd.