BJHS volleyball teams sweep league tournaments
Both Baldwin Junior High School varsity volleyball teams avenged previous losses en route to sweeping the Frontier League championships Saturday.
It was the first time in recent years the Bulldogs have won both varsity league titles. The eighth grade team went 5-0 and the seventh graders were 4-0 at the tournaments.
“It was an incredible run,” eighth grade coach Brenda Shawley said. “We had several team mottos. One of them was to play UNITED, which stood for unselfish, no nonsense, intense, putting the team number one, energetic and discipline. All of those letters came to life on Saturday.”
Seventh grade coach Marilee Valentine was also ecstatic for her team.
“It was very exciting,” Valentine said. “This group of girls has been working toward this goal since I’ve coached many of them in club volleyball. It was really great to get that win, because they’ve worked hard for quite a few years.”
The seventh grade team’s path to the title was more dominant as no opponent scored more than 18 points in a game. The Bulldogs rolled over each team with ease Saturday.
BJHS began the day with an easy win over Pioneer Ridge, 25-12 and 25-12. Emily Simpson served 16 of 16 with five aces in the match. Baldwin’s second match was even more dominant as it beat Spring Hill 25-8 and 25-10. Simpson again served perfectly, as she was 27 of 27. Jordan Hoffman had four blocks and seven kills.
The Bulldogs next took care of Wheatridge. They won 25-18 and 25-8. Sierra Hall had six aces and four kills, while Alexia Stein recorded four kills and three aces.
“I always told the girls throughout the year that playing the eighth grade team in practice every day was going to be our toughest match, even though we lost a couple matches,” Valentine said. “We lost a couple when we weren’t playing well in the middle of the season. The eighth graders were pushing us day in and day out.”
In the finals, the Bulldogs faced an Ottawa team they lost to the Monday before the tournament. However, in the finals, the Bulldogs cruised, winning 25-12 and 25-9. Corey Valentine served 20 of 21, including 16 in a row in the second game. Hall had five kills and Simpson had four kills.
“They were very excited, especially after beating Ottawa to win the championship,” coach Valentine said. “We lost to Ottawa on Monday last week, so it was nice to get that revenge.”
At the eighth grade tournament, the Bulldogs had some much closer matches. A year ago, this BJHS team went undefeated into the league tournament and finished third. This year, they were determined to exit on top.
“There is a tremendous difference from seventh grade to eighth grade,” Shawley said. “They were determined not to have a repeat performance in the league tournament and I think that showed. It was their ultimate goal to end the season on top.”
Baldwin began the day beating Paola, 25-23 and 25-19. Madeline McCrary served 13 of 13 in the match. Baldwin’s second match in pool play was against Wheatridge. BJHS once again took care of business, winning 25-23 and 25-8. BJHS served 98 percent in the second game.
The Bulldogs’ final pool play match was a beatdown of Eudora. They won both games 25-11 to earn the No. 1 seed in the bracket. Bella Villaca served 11 of 11 in the match. Morgan Lober had five kills.
In the first bracket match, Baldwin faced a Louisburg team that it split with on Sept. 28. Baldwin won the first game 25-22, but fell in the second, 25-14. In the third and final game, BJHS came out on top, 15-13, to advance to the finals.
“The girls were nervous coming in to that match,” Shawley said. “Louisburg had a 6-2 middle hitter and she really affected our hitting the first time we played against them.”
The Bulldogs faced the same Pioneer Ridge team in the finals that gave them their first loss a year ago. Pioneer Ridge also beat the Bulldogs on Sept. 24 and came into the tournament undefeated.
BJHS lost the first game 25-17 before evening the match with a 25-15 win over Pioneer Ridge. The Bulldogs led 12-9 in the final game when McCrary served three times to win 15-9. Anna Nichols scored the last point as she hit the ball with her arm and it went over the net and hit the floor.
“It was a battle,” Shawley said. “It was the best volleyball we played all year. Both teams were back and forth and making plays. “The girls were beyond excited. We sort of ran on the court when we weren’t supposed to after the match. We had great fan support all year and especially on Saturday.”