Kapaun volleyball responds to pressure with 5A sub-state victory
The pressure of expectations placed on Kapaun Mount Carmel since the season’s first volleyball practice has been intense and, often, self-inflicted.
When a team enters a season with such outstanding hitters as seniors Sydney Kuhn and Audrey Grant, 2012 All-Metro selections who have made oral commitments to play at Notre Dame and Tulsa, there’s an understanding that, yeah, people will expect the team to win.
Throw in a total of nine seniors, the most in coach Terri Hessman’s history with the program, and that Kapaun finished fourth in Class 5A in 2012, and it was a recipe for intense scrutiny.
On Saturday at Kapaun, the Crusaders swept Salina Central 25-16, 25-19 in the 5A sub-state final to advance to the state tournament on Nov. 1 and 2 at Topeka’s Kansas Expocentre.
Kapaun is one of four City League teams to qualify for state. Carroll also advanced in 5A, while East and Northwest advanced in 6A.
“We kind of feel like it’s our last year, so we have to be big, have to be undefeated, you have to sweep everyone,” Grant said. “It’s a lot of pressure.”
After the win, there was a sense of relief for Kapaun (35-4), which also beat West 25-9, 25-5.
“It’s lovely to get a sub-state at home, but it scares you because there’s been teams in the past who had a sub-state at home and had all these seniors and then everyone falls apart because there’s so much pressure,” Kapaun coach Terri Hessman said. “But they are playing well.”
Salina Central, which beat Newton 25-22, 24-26, 25-21 in the semifinals, couldn’t slow Grant and Kuhn, who had 13 and 14 kills in the match.
Kapaun’s setters, Wesley Crowdus and Austyn Ames, could set the hitting duo anywhere along the net or in the back row and get a kill. In the second set, Kuhn took a second hit in the back row and passed it over to the left side to Grant, who killed it.
The Crusaders, who were without senior Molly Kush, out with a concussion, and didn’t play Liz Dwyer because of an ankle injury until the day’s final set, got solid play from Gabby Torline and Makenna Johnson.
“And (sophomore Molly McNeil), I pulled her off the (junior varsity) court and said, ‘you’re starting.’ She’s been pretty nervous, but you couldn’t see it on the court,” Hessman said.
There was little to criticize about Kapaun’s play against West and Salina Central — the Crusaders had strong passing, setting and hitting.
But Kapaun suffered two losses on Oct. 19 when it lost to Topeka Hayden and St. James at the St. Thomas Aquinas tournament, and the Crusaders also lost to Carroll on Oct. 17 and finished tied for the City League title.
“We played a lot better than we have been playing,” Crowdus said of Saturday. “We have been focusing on what we need to do, not only this week, but also next week.”
Ah, yes. Next week. Kapaun’s far from satisfied with its accomplishments so far. A 5A title is the ultimate goal.
“We’re on to the next one,” Kuhn said. “No time for breaks. It’s an accomplishment, but we have more to do.”