It had the makings of a state tournament-caliber match.
And why not? Douglass and Garden Plain both have had strong runs at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament the past handful of seasons. Garden Plain even won the whole thing. The Owls entered Saturday’s tournament title match at the Bulldogs’ home invitational as the defending state champions.
The home team came up just short, though. After both teams split the first two sets, Garden Plain won a few key points down the stretch to narrowly edge Douglass for a 25-19, 15-25, 25-22 win to claim the tournament title.
The loss was the only one of the day for the Bulldogs. They started 3-0 in pool play without dropping a set in convincing fashion. In bracket play, the Bulldogs won a thriller match against El Dorado 26-24, 28-26 to reach the finals.
The Bulldogs finished with a tournament-high three selections for the All-Tournament as Kenlee Martin, the Bulldogs’ libero, Katelyn Moore, their standout hitter, and Madison Woody, the Bulldogs’ senior leader who dominated in the middle all day long.
In the final, the Owls made two big runs to close the first set with a win. The Bulldogs rose to the challenge in Set 2, though. They jumped out to an 11-2 lead and held off the Owls’ lone run to dominate Set 2.
“They minimized their errors, so that helps. We had so many missed served in the first set. So that kept putting us behind,” Douglass coach Leanna Braddy said of her Bulldog squad. “I told them to minimize their errors and get ready to play, every ball, every point.”
The Bulldogs did just that in Set 2. An ace by Moore and a tip kill by Reece Cochran gave the Bulldogs a 5-1 lead. Woody later got a huge block and a tip kill while Jansyn Schamahorn served an ace during a 6-0 run to give Douglass an 11-2 lead.
Garden Plain later went on an 8-2 run to get close, but the Bulldogs got a big kill from Emilia Potts to stop the Owls’ surge. Garden Plain later cut it to 17-14, but the Bulldogs rolled to an 8-1 run to close the set. Moore and Schamahorn each had an ace during the stretch.
The Bulldogs had another lead in Set 2 as Woody made a big block for a 7-2 lead. Kenlee Martin later had a kill to help Douglass lead 11-7. Moore had a kill for a 14-10 lead.
That’s when Garden Plain made a push. The Bulldogs made a service error, defensive error and a return error during a 7-1 Garden Plain run. The Bulldogs fought through some of that to later tie it 20-20, but two offensive errors and two Garden Plain kills in the final points proved costly for the Bulldogs.
“We just made a few errors, then we just imploded a little, I felt,” Braddy said. “...That’s one of the things they need to work on the rest of the season. Let the mistakes go.”
Woody, who wasn’t 100 percent healthy, had to sit out for stretches against the Owls. She still finished with a team-high nine kill in the match.
The second-place effort wasn’t from lack of trying, though. The Bulldogs brought energy to each match. They constantly dove on the ground to make defensive saves and keep points alive. Braddy said she ran a drill in practice earlier in the week called “Dig or Die,” which engrains in the Bulldogs’ mind to go after every single ball.
That worked throughout the tournament. The Bulldogs outmatched the Augusta Orioles in the pool play final on way to a 25-16, 25-15 win. Martin had nine digs while Greely Munroe and Allison Zalusky had six digs apiece. Moore added five as the Bulldogs finished with 34 digs for the match.
In bracket play, the Bulldogs played even better defense against a tough El Dorado squad. Martin had a team-high 14 digs. Moore had 10, Zalusky added seven as the Bulldogs finished with 51 total digs.
On offense, Moore had 13 kills and a service ace while Woody added 10 kills and finished with a .364 hitting percentage. Woody also had two blocks as she and El Dorado’s Caedyn Reinhardt, two of the top middles in their respective classes, went back and forth all match.
Against the Wildcats, Douglass got kills from Moore and Woody in the final points to edge them in the first set. El Dorado had a point to win Set 2 at 24-23, but Martin served an ace, then later got a dump kill to keep Douglass alive. Moore and Woody again got kills on back-to-back points to seal the match 26-24, 28-26.
Earlier in the day, the Bulldogs beat Winfield 25-15, 25-27 and topped Remington 25-2, 25-11.
Jeremy Costello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @JdotCo