Fourth-ranked Circle Lady Thunderbirds wins sub-state in straight sets, heads back to 4A volleyball tournament

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
The Circle Lady Thunderbirds celebrate their sub-state title on Saturday after sweeping Clearwater.

TOWANDA, Kansas — After missing out on last year's state tournament, the Circle Lady Thunderbirds have been on a mission this season to do more than just get back to the state tournament. 

They want to win the whole thing.

On Saturday afternoon, they moved one step closer as they swept by Concordia and Clearwater in straight sets to advance to the Class 4A state tournament in Hutchinson next week.

Circle had done it with the return of some injured players as Lyric ... returned and was dominating as she paired up with sophomore Lyric Edgerle. The duo create an unstoppable pair for opposing teams. 

"Lyric [Edgerle] took over today, Circle head coach Shelly Nibarger said. "She sprained her ankle badly in our first tournament of the season. So, we lost to Smoky Valley in the finals, when lyric couldn't play. We lost to andale when Lyric was hobbling. So, this just adds a lot an extra depth to our team when we have Jacqueline [Corcoran] and Lyric opposite both hitting missiles.

"It's going to have her [Edgerle] back and it's it can happen at a better time."

Sophomore Jacqueline Corcoran agrees.

"She really helps me to figure out what I'm doing," Corcoran said. "So, having her back on the court to talk to me it's really great. She's really strong and she's helped me out a lot this season."

This Lady T-Birds (31-6) team provides depth beyond previous teams and it's been obvious in their play as they've won their games convincingly and with some intensity. Some of that comes from having players back that know this is their last season like senior Marissa Holt. She is coming off two torn ACL surgeries and just being back on the court this season means the world to her.

"It means literally the world to me," Holt said. "This is definitely one of the best teams I've been a part of and we're just so successful and we're so together and that makes it even more special."

The combination of Holt and senior Ella Maholland were key to the wins but even more so in the final against Clearwater. After the Indians went on a run, coach Nibarger called a timeout and it was the duo of Maholland and Holt that seemed to be a brick wall at the net. 

"The connection is really great," Holt said between her and Maholland. "You really just have to know where each other is because a lot of times just because of all the different sets you can't really talk to each other. It's that trust and connection."

For Circle, it's their first return trip to the Class 4A state tournament since they finished third in 2019.

The sub-state win caps off another impressive feat this season as Circle won the AVCTL-III league title for the first time in school history. While they had won AVCTL-II titles and AVCTL-IV titles, this was the first one since moving to Division III. 

"It's been a lot fun," Nibarger said. "This is a phenomenal group of girls. There's been no drama. They truly like each other."

Some of those players attribute that to coach Nibarger. 

"We have fun when we're on this team; it's like a family," sophomore Corcoran said who transferred from Wichita Northwest this season. "That's biggest difference for me."

Maybe it's the math teacher in her but Edgerle said it's Nibarger's attention to detail that helps this team separate themselves. 

"She she breaks stuff down and make sure it makes sure we understand every little thing we do," Edgerle said. "I think some teams lacks the ability to do the little tiny things that are still super important. She's big on into hammers on I think that's really important for our team.

"It comes easy to us, because we we work on it so much practice."

Circle will take their momentum, winners of 17 of their last 18 matches, into the Class 4A state tournament on Friday at the Sports Arena in Hutchinson. 

"I know how much our seniors want it and I think everyone else does," Edgerle said. "It's that's important to us to give that to them and give them that experience."

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.