Pete Logan
Despite losing the first game of what would turn out to be a four-game match, the Gardner-Edgerton High School volleyball team rallied to win three straight and dispatch the Blue Valley Southwest Timberwolves 3 games to 1 at Gardner-Edgerton High School Gymnasium on Thursday night.
The Blazers rebounded from a 23-25 Game One loss and claimed victories of 25-14, 25-18, and 25-21 to take the match.
“Something we’ve been struggling with is coming out strong,” said GEHS head coach Hannah Berry after the match. “We just haven’t figured that out yet. So we switched the rotation around a little bit and the girls are starting to find their rhythm again. We were just finding our rhythm a little bit better in the 2nd and 3rd games than we did in the 1st.”
Game One was a tight affair, with neither team ever gaining more than a 3-point advantage over the other. There were 11 ties and the lead changed hands 7 times. The two teams were tied at 23-23 before a kill from BVSW senior middle blocker Lauren Heck and a side out against the Blazers allowed the visitors to claim the first-game victory.
In Game Two, the Trailblazers jumped out to an early lead, before an ace from Timberwolves senior setter Lauren Weber tied the game at 5-5. The Blazers then went on a mini-run of 3-0 that was punctuated by their own service ace from junior outside hitter Jaylyne Bell, giving Gardner-Edgerton an 8-5 lead. Southwest pulled to within one at 10-9 later, but the Blazers then rolled off 6 straight points, including 2 points from a Bell on a kill and a tap. GEHS junior Jayden Padilla then placed the exclamation point on the run with a service ace that put the home team firmly in command, 16-9. The Blazers then went on a 4-0 run after a Timberwolves’ point. Bell drove home two kills during that 4-0 spurt that put the Trailblazers up 20-10. BVSW never got closer than within 8 the rest of the way. Blazers’ senior outside hitter Gracen Mealman tipped home the game-winning point that gave her squad the 25-14 victory.
The Timberwolves jumped out to a 3-1 lead in Game Three, but the Blazers responded with 7 straight points including 3 in a row from Bell on a kill and two blocks. The Gardner-Edgerton lead grew to 9 when senior setter Kendra Wait directed a tap against BVSW defense to make the score 19-10 Blazers. The Blazer lead was 10 after a Mealman kill made it 24-14, but Southwest answered with their own 4-0 run to close to within 7 at 24-18. However, Bell put the final point away on an emphatic kill, and the home squad claimed a 25-18 Game Three win.
After Southwest made their way to a 5-3 lead early in Game Four, the Blazers responded with a 5-0 run that was keyed by junior hitter Mia Bishop. With the score 5-4 Timberwolves, Bishop drove home two straight kills, then combined with junior middle hitter Kiersten Markos on a block that gave the Blazers an 8-5 advantage. Over the next several exchanges, BVSW tied the game. The Blazers led 12-11 when Wait scored on a backwards tap to make it 13-11 GEHS, that was followed by a ball struck too long by the Timberwolves, and then a block by junior middle blocker Jordan Boone to make the score 15-11. Southwest pulled within 1 point several times down the stretch, including at 21-20 and 22-21, but — from there — the Trailblazer seniors took control. Wait scored again on another directed tap and then was followed by a pair of kills from Bell that gave GEHS a 25-21 Game Four win and overall match win, 3 games to 1.
The win was just part of a huge week for the Trailblazers. Earlier in the week, Bell was honored with the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Week award, while Wait was named to the Under Armor High School All-American Volleyball Team. After the win against the Timberwolves, Bell and Wait’s head coach spoke about what they’ve meant to the program.
“It’s super exciting,” said Berry of the honors her two leaders were receiving. “First and foremost, I feel that when we have kids that get those big accolades it’s only a representation of the whole team and our program. Jaylyne can’t get the Player of the Week without a strong team behind her. You know, Kendra’s been working toward that since she was a little kid, and — honestly — she’s a stud. She’s got strong work ethic and is a smart player on the court. It’s so exciting to see those two earn some accolades for their hard work.”
Unofficially, Bell led all Trailblazers with 17 kills, 2 blocks for points, and 2 taps/drops, while Mealman notched 6 kills and 3 taps/drops for points. Boone recorded 3 kills and 3 blocks for points, Bishop added 3 kills, Markos had 2 ½ blocks for points, while Padilla and junior libero Ava Bojanski each had 2 service aces. For her part, Wait added 8 taps/drops, 2 ½ blocks for points, and double digit assists.
With the win, the Blazers improved to 13-6 on the season.