BHS falls just short at state
It may be taking a few days, but slowly but surely the Baldwin High School volleyball team is realizing what kind of season it had.
The Bulldogs went 4-1 at the Class 4A state championships in Salina, but lost a heart breaker to Goodland for the state title Saturday afternoon.
"We were definitely disappointed," coach Jill Brown said of the
Bulldogs' second-place finish. "But we can stand back now and say what a great season we have had."
That great season not only consisted of the highest finish ever by a Baldwin volleyball team at state, but also a Frontier League title and a sub-state crown.
BHS also finished with a glossy 41-3 record. If 41 wins sounds like a lot, it is. BHS had more victories then any volleyball team in the state in all classes during the 2003 season.
Yet the didn't end the way the Bulldogs wanted it to.
"We put a lot into this season and made a lot of sacrifices," Brown said, "and when you put out that much and don't get what you want, it hurts."
Any emotion felt on Friday was nothing short of pure joy. The
second-seeded Bulldogs downed Wamego by scores of 25-20, 21-25 and 15-7. They then handled Clearwater by counts of 23-25, 25-20 and 15-6. Finally, they dispatched last year's state champions, Lansing, 25-13, 19-25 and 25-10. By going 3-0 the Bulldogs won their pool, assured themselves a spot in Saturday's semifinals and gained confidence against some of the state's elite teams.
"We weren't really used to going three games," senior Emily Brown said. "We played to the level of our competition and did what we had to to win."
The Bulldogs needed to win all three matches on Friday. If BHS would have lost the final game against Lansing, there would have been three teams at 2-1, while only two teams can make it out of pool play. It is unclear whether BHS would have made it to semi-finals or not, but in all likelihood they would not have. This is simply because in each BHS victory, the Bulldogs needed a third and decisive game.
"I just told them, let's go out and beat Lansing, go 3-0, and make it without question," said coach Brown.
BHS took her advice.
"Our main incentive is that we wanted to stay in our hotel room," Emily Brown said.
In the semi-finals, BHS was set to face off against No. 1 ranked
Abilene. Unlike what they had done the previous day, the Bulldogs only needed two games to down their opponent.
"We played the best we probably played all year in that match," senior Rachel Miles said. "Everyone was excited as we took our team to the championship match."
The Bulldogs dot down early but fought back and won the first game 26-24. From there BHS dominated and won the decisive game, 25-10.
"Once we started rallying, they just seemed to give up," senior Haydon Hubbel said.
The Bulldogs were then right where they wanted to be, playing for the state title against Goodland.
"Going into the game we were confident," coach Brown said. "We expected to be there all season and we thought we could win."
Unfortunately, the wheels fell off for BHS. The Bulldogs couldn't handle Goodland as the Cowgirls triumphed 14-25 and 20-25.
Or maybe BHS just couldn't handle Goodland's Dani Bedore. The freshman sensation used a jump serve with a topspin that had BHS baffled. Bedore often rallied off several aces in a row in both games.
"She was just awesome," senior Kari Garrison said.
Although coach Brown admits Goodland's play was superb, she felt the Bulldogs didn't play the way that got them to that game.
"Not to take anything away from Goodland, but we didn't play our best game," she said.
"I think we felt nervous and played very timid," she said.
Just like it had been all year, BHS was led by its core of seniors over the weekend and no one contributed more than Brown and Miles. Brown had 70 kills, 54 assists and a .443 hitting efficiency. Miles had 27 kills, 32 blocks and 21 digs. For their efforts, both were named to the all-tournament team.
Also playing big were Garrison, who had a team leading 66 assists, Hubbel, who was tops with a 2.4 serve receiving rating, and sophomore Kelsey Heckathorne, who led all Bulldogs with a 100 percent serving percentage.
It was the seniors, though, that can get the credit for the Bulldogs rise to success. Three years ago the varsity team went 12-22. They then went 24-14 and 31-10 in the next two years before going 41-3 this year.
"We have just gradually gotten better and better over the years because of that group," coach Brown said. "When they were freshman, Emily and Rachel started on varsity and everyone else was on JV. They have turned the program around."
Emily Brown agreed that the program has risen to prominence but gives much credit to her mom, the coach.
"We have a volleyball family and we had an attitude that we wanted to take the program up together," she said. "I think we did that."
Emily Brown finished up by commenting how this was a year for the record books.
"You always hear from teams in any sport when they have success that 'this was the best year ever,'" she said. "Well, we can honestly say that this was the best year for Baldwin High School Volleyball."
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