HUTCHINSON, KANSAS — The idea of a state championship will wait another year for the Circle volleyball team. The Thunderbirds finished third place on Saturday in the Class 4A state volleyball tournament, going 3-2 on the weekend.
“I’m so proud of the group of young ladies,” Circle head coach Shelly Nibarger said. “They each understood, accepted and starred in their roles this season. There were no attitudes, jealousies or drama.”
Overall, Circle finished 36-8 on the season. The 36 wins is the third most in school history, behind 2002 (42) and 2004 (37).
Circle’s third place finish was only behind Andale (2nd) and Topeka Hayden (1st).
The weekend started out strong as Circle taking out the Eudora Cardinals in the first match of pool play. After a dominant first set, Circle had to use some tenacity to battle back from a 10-6 deficit in the second set. The T-Birds did enough and took the straight win over Eudora 25-19, 25-22.
This set up a tough match against the eventual state champion: Topeka Hayden. Despite being seeded seventh in the state tournament, Hayden had been ranked in the Top 2 all season long and it was apparent why quickly. The Wildcats dispatched of Circle 25-12 in the first set and then did it again 25-19 in the second set, sending Circle to a deciding third match against second seeded Independence.
It was a three-set thriller, but it was just enough to send Circle into Saturday’s semifinal match as Circle won the three set match 25-18, 22-25, and 25-16.
In a tournament that was loaded with top squads, it was Andale, the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed and the No. 1 ranked all season long. Circle struggled to get out of the game, falling 17-5 in the first set. Circle lost the first set 25-10.
“I was pleased with the way we bounced back after losing to Andale in the first semi-final set,” Nibarger said.
Circle came out with a lead into the second set, fighting valiantly. Andale tied it up at 24-all after Circle led 24-21. Andale fought back, defeating Circle 28-26, eliminating the T-Birds from title contention.
The struggles bled into their third place match against Louisburg where Circle dropped the first set 25-19. They would eventually get the second set 25-21 to level the match at one set apiece, setting up a decisive third set for the third place match.
Louisburg led the third set 9-1 before Circle rallied to make it 22-all.
That is when Circle turned it up. They would score four of the next six points to take the third set 26-24, giving Circle third place.
Seniors Kaily Duncan and Mallory Cowman were named to the 2019 All-State Tournament Team.
This has been a very successful season for Circle not just based on wins. They won undefeated in three tournaments this season: Wamego (6-0), Circle (5-0) Hillsboro (5-0) and Sub-State (2-0).
“These girls truly like each other, supported each other and played together as a team,” Nibarger said