The Augusta Lady Orioles volleyball team spent the first 30 minutes of its final practice at Hutter Gymnasium clowning around and taking pictures for a mural near head coach Brian Hallmark’s chemistry classroom.


 


The Augusta Lady Orioles volleyball team spent the first 30 minutes of its final practice at Hutter Gymnasium clowning around and taking pictures for a mural near head coach Brian Hallmark’s chemistry classroom.

The players didn’t look like they had a care in the world before the Class 4A state volleyball tournament at Salina’s Bicentennial Center; as if they had nothing to lose.

Well, they really don’t have anything to lose Friday in pool play and Saturday, if they qualify for bracket play. They weren’t supposed to be here — losing their first four matches; falling to teams like Andover and Circle during the regular season.

“We’ve just been trying to maintain and handle the ball,” Hallmark said. “We’re just trying to enjoy the last week and enjoying practice. We haven’t been doing anything strenuous, but trying to keep in shape with odd drills. We’re just thoroughly enjoying this week.”

But the Lady Orioles did beat Andover this season, and Circle in the substate semifinal last week in Caney in the substate tournament. Then the Augusta players turned their attention to rival-El Dorado in the final and were able to claim the tourney title in three games.

The Lady Orioles (23-13) are the No. 7-seed in the final tournament of the season and Hallmark — after the pairings for the tournament came out Sunday — said he feels the magic shown from last week can continue this week to another surprising conclusion.

“I think we got a very favorable pool; and I think knowing those teams will help us out,” Hallmark said. “We hope we can come out and sneak up on them a little bit.”

The Lady Orioles  who earned the No. 7-seed in the state tournament, start off with two very familiar teams also in the Wichita area. They will first play Clearwater (36-5) at 8:30 a.m.; then follow that up with Cheney (33-5) at 11:30 a.m.

“There really isn’t any outstanding hitters on Clearwater’s team, but I also know they are very experienced and they serve extremely well,” Hallmark said. “The first time we played them, we jumped on them quick and then we got in trouble when our passing went away. Then they just served us off the floor and we never re-cooped.

“We saw Cheney at the Goddard tournament. I didn’t watch them real close when they were in Goddard, but they still have a couple of big, tall girls. I think their strength is coming out of the middle. I know they have a state-qualifying high jumper who is the spark plug on the team.”

Augusta will close out the pool play round against Girard (31-6) in a 1:30 p.m. matchup; a team Hallmark doesn’t really know a lot about, but will get a chance to scout in between games.

“I don’t want to underestimate the southeast Kansas teams, but in the past, teams from our area has been stronger than theirs,” Hallmark said.