Coming into the 2020 volleyball season, Sabetha coach Abby Stueve really didn’t know exactly what she had at her disposal.


She knew she had a solid duo to build upon with the return on unanimous All-Big Seven League outside hitter Melinna Schumann and setter Emily Krebs. But with only two other players that saw the varsity court a year ago back and the Bluejays having to replace seven seniors who played significant roles on last year’s 33-9 team, there were so many unknowns going into it.


"Early on, I thought we’d compete, maybe middle of the road compete," Stueve said. "We still had Minny Schumann, who is a powerhouse and has been since her freshman year. We had that weapon and our setter so it’s always good when you have that connection. But I really didn’t see this year’s seniors contributing the way they are. We had a good JV team last year, so I knew they were solid. But not to the point that we can compete at the level we have been so far."


Perhaps no team in the state has been a bigger surprise this season than Sabetha. The Bluejays served notice in their season-opening tournament, taking down preseason Class 2A No. 1 Valley Heights on their way to winning the Marysville Invitational.


But the real eye-opener came Tuesday night. Facing off against Class 3A No. 1 Royal Valley, the defending state champion, Sabetha not only beat the Panthers but swept them in a pair of two-set victories. The 25-21, 25-11 and 25-23, 25-19 wins moved Sabetha to 14-0 on the season.


"I think we haven’t won any games that we shouldn’t have won," Stueve said. "We’ve played good competition, but we’ve been up to it and haven’t really had that match where it was like, ‘How did we win that one?’ I am surprised at the level these girls are playing at. I probably wouldn’t have told you that at the beginning of the season.


"It’s been quite the ride so far. It’s been nice."


Schumann has been her dominant self in the Bluejays’ undefeated start, pounding out 111 kills with a kill percentage of 35.5%.. She’s also added 21 blocks, 12 aces and a team-high 163 digs. Krebs has dished out 113 assists.


But Sabetha has gotten big-time production from the newcomers as well. Senior Leah Renyer actually leads the team in kills with 119, while seniors Camryn Wessel and Erin Deters have been forces on the middle block, combining for 95 kills and 60 blocks.


The duo came up with three big blocks early in Tuesday’s match with Royal Valley that set the tone for the night. Each finished with four blocks, while Schumann had 12 kills and Wessel and Renyer each had 11.


"They seem to mesh really well," Stueve said. "As long as we keep on working, I don’t see us falling off. We have a nice little flow going."


Sabetha has only dropped three sets so far all season, two coming at last Saturday’s Rock Creek Round-Robin, which originally was supposed to be the Nemaha Central Invitational before the Thunder were shut down for COVID-19 reasons.


Stueve said her team had a terrible practice Monday following the tourney.


"I was really nervous about going in against Royal Valley," she said. "But these girls are gamers. They want to win, know what it takes to win and are buying in to the program, which you have to have. When you have that type of camaraderie and sense of team, I don’t see these girls stopping. They are confident and you have to have that in volleyball."


After flying under the radar somewhat to start the season, Sabetha will have everyone’s attention giong forward.


Seeking the program’s first state tournament appearance since 1999, Stueve said she won’t let any outside pressures creep in and affect her team’s momentum.


"I hope they focus more on the expectations from within," Stueve said. "Those are always going to be there and there’s nothing that a ranking will do to change what we expect from ourselves on a day-to-day basis. I hope they handle it well and we’ll continue to talk about it and what it means, but we won’t give it too much time bearing on how we proceed. You still have to earn it."


VOLLEYBALL


-- Wabaunsee improved to 13-0, sweeping Marysville and St. Marys on Tuesday after winning their pool of the modified Lyndon Invitational on Saturday.


-- Burlingame won its pool of the modified Lyndon Invitational with a 3-0 mark and improved to 10-0 overall with a three-set win over Southern Coffey on Tuesday.


-- Maur Hill overcame the absence of its starting outside hitter to go 4-0 last week before splitting matches on Tuesday with McLouth and Valley Falls.


-- Washington County went 5-0 to capture the Frankfort Invitational title.


– - Rural Vista’s Meghan Brockmeier went over 1,000 digs in her career with 84 in the Heat’s first seven matches. She also has 94 kills in that span.


CROSS COUNTRY


-- Chapman’s Taylor Briggs, the three-time defending Class 4A state champion, showed she’s still the one to beat for the title this season with her showing at the Wamego Invitational last Saturday. Facing a field that included the top six teams in Class 4A, Briggs completely dominated the race with her winning time of 18 minutes, 10.2 seconds more than two minutes ahead of the runner-up finisher.


-- After posting a runner-up finish by just two seconds in his first varsity meet, Council Grove freshman Kodi Downes nabbed the first title of his career at last Thursday’s Lyndon Invitational. Downes won by eight second in a time of 17 minutes, 16.93 seconds. Jordan Picolet was runner-up in the girls race.


-- Manhattan swept all four titles at the Emporia Invitational, taking both team crowns as well as having both individual champions. Daniel Harkin avenged his season-opening loss to Emporia’s Treyson True on his home course by turning the tables and winning on True’s course, edging him by eight seconds in 15 minutes, 52.8 seconds. Jenna Keeley, meanwhile, won her second straight meet with a time of 19:14.8, nearly a minute and a half faster than her closest competitor.


-- Jackson Heights Daniel Little picked right up where he left off a year ago when he didn’t lose a regular-season race, taking the title at last Thursday’s Holton Invitational. Little won by nearly 40 seconds in 17 minutes, 52.99 seconds over Hiawatha’s Justin Hodge. McLouth won the boys’ team title.


-- Hiawatha’s Kate Madsen took the girls’ title at Holton, beating Cornerstone’s Evie Gentry by 21 seconds in 22:17.56. Hiawatha took the girls’ team title.


GOLF


-- Emporia’s Avary Eckert led a 1-2 finish with twin sister Olivia to lead the Spartans to the title at the Newton Invitational’s Back Nine group. Eckert shot a 39 to edge Olivia by four shots and Emporia topped Derby by 13 shots with a 186.


-- Wamego won a tiebreaker with Anderson County to take first at the Hayden Invitational with team scores of 187. Tonganoxie’s Hayden York was the individual winner with a 41.


-- Concordia’s Abby Donovan shots a 42 to edge Wamego’s Kirby McKee by two shots for the title at the Wamego Invitational. Wamego took the team title.


– Osage City’s Laci Davenport won her second straight tournament, shooting a 43 to win Tuesday’s Santa Fe Trail Invitational by two shots. Ottawa won the first team title in program history, edning Osage City by one shot and Silver Lake by two with a 154.