It was perhaps one of the more pivotal points that changed the course of Saturday’s Class 4A volleyball substate championship match and the ball wasn’t in play at the time. 



It was perhaps one of the more pivotal points that changed the course of Saturday’s Class 4A volleyball substate championship match and the ball wasn’t in play at the time. 

The Augusta Lady Orioles and the El Dorado Lady Wildcats were waiting on the court during the second game as referees and coaches for both teams stopped play for about five minutes to decide the interpretation of a rule. 

The Lady Wildcats were standing in a circle talking and looking very tense despite leading the game 20-12 at the time.

The Lady Orioles were dancing; and, when they were through with showing their moves, decided to play tag to entertain the crowd. Running around the court playing tag when you’re one match away from what looked early in the season as an improbable qualification to the state tournament in Salina? 

Well, the fun and games helped the Lady Orioles stay loose during the break as they were able to get that berth with a three-game victory over the rival-Lady Wildcats (25-21, 16-25, 25-11) and qualify for their third state tournament in four years after starting the season with only one win in seven matches to start the season.

The Lady Orioles (23-13) sang “We’re goin’ to the ‘Ship” as they waited for their substate championship trophy; and as a team was the only way they were going to win the substate as every person who reached the floor contributed in some way to getting Augusta back to the state tournament.

What was Augusta volleyball head coach Brian Hallmark’s thoughts while he was discussing the rule in question — involving an El Dorado player rotating out of turn — and the Lady Orioles playing tag at a time when most would have thought concentration on the task at hand would have been the better thing to do during the lull time.

“They were just confident,” Hallmark said. “The girls had to said to me all (last) week that we were going to go to state. Then they went out and did what they had to do to make that come true. We’ve talking all year long that in the end, it comes down to the weakest point of the floor, and we knew it was the players who haven’t been playing (varsity) all that long. They just kept stepping it up all season.”

Two players from the squad that finished as the 2006 state runner-up team — Nellie Gillies and Alexa Poore — probably were the most emotional when the Lady Orioles recorded match point. Both ran to each other with tears in their eyes knowing they were returning to the state tournament.

For Gillies, going back to play in Salina sweet considering that the Lady Orioles went from a state runner-up to the bottom seed in last year’s tournament and the slow start this season to coming back and seeing the team grow up in a number of ways both in play and in maturity.

“This means everything because I was with the state team two years ago and we had such a disappointing season last year,” Gillies said. “It’s a big deal to come back after that season to go to state.”

Poore was a little more reserved because she had the confidence that the team kept its confidence and could come back from their disastrous start of the season.

“We just knew that we could take all of these teams,” Poore said. “We knew we could do it and everyone was on the same page. (Nellie and I) are going to help them understand that it’s an experience that they’re never going to forget.”

Other Lady Orioles grew in their positions as the season progressed, especially since only five of the players had substate varsity experience.

Senior Ashley Schwemmer became the first option of assisting the front line in kill attempts, with Sydney Madison also improving in that position as the season progressed. Taylor Hallmark continued her growth as the team’s libero; and Kara Hall, Brianna Weakley, Shelby Brasfield and Liz Smith grew up as front line players with limited or no varsity experience. 

“We really worked hard on things in practice, like just setting,” Schwemmer said. “It really prepared me and gave me confidence. I could not be happier; I have never been this happy.”

Hall added: “My team has just kept pushing me to keep improving. We just keep pushing each other to keep getting better and growing.”

The Lady Orioles, who earned the No. 7-seed in the state tournament, will first play Clearwater (36-5) at 8:30 a.m. at Salina’s Bicentennial Center. Augusta will face Cheney (33-5) at 11:30 a.m., and close out pool play against Girard (31-6) in a 1:30 p.m. matchup. Bracket play will be Saturday morning.