De Soto volleyball wins Spikefest
De Soto Heading into Saturday's Spikefest volleyball tournament, there was one team in particular that the De Soto was hoping to face if the Wildcats advanced to the finals.
De Soto (28-3, ranked No. 4 in Class 5A) and Lansing (28-5, No. 2 in 5A) were the top-seeded teams in the 10-team tournament, and the Wildcats were eager to face the Lions to avenge two of their three losses on the season.
The Wildcats got their wish and rose to the occasion to defeat the Lions in the championship match, 25-19, 28-26. With the victory over the Lions, the Wildcats won their home tournament for the first time in school history.
"It's insane. We've wanted to beat Lansing," De Soto senior Riley Moore said of the Lions, who defeated the Wildcats twice at the Lansing Invitational. "We played them back then and they beat us. We were focused this week and we just really wanted to get this win. It feels awesome going into the rest of the season."
After winning the first set, the Wildcats led comfortably for most of the second before Lansing made a late charge. De Soto held a 21-16 lead in the second before Lansing went on an 8-2 run to force set point. It marked the first of two set points for the Lions, but the Wildcats were able to lock in to stay alive in the set with a kill from junior outside hitter Loren Hinkle to tie it up at 24-24 and a block by junior middle blocker Ally Barnhart to even the score at 25-25.
"When we got in our huddle we were just like, 'Let's focus and go,'" Moore said. "Our determination just went up and just drove it."
Moore set the tone for the Wildcats defensively throughout the championship match alongside fellow defensive specialist Alexa Rosetta and libero Maya Bascom. The Wildcats ended up having two sets points as well — the second coming after a kill from junior outside hitter Cassidy Crist that gave them a 27-26 edge. De Soto then closed it out when a Lansing player stepped over the middle line while trying to continue a rally.
The Wildcats had found themselves in a similar situation a week earlier in the championship match of the Janice Van Gorp tournament when they took the first set from Shawnee Mission Northwest, but they were unable to close it out. De Soto had a full week without matches to be able to regroup for its home tournament, and coach Lindsay Hothan said her team's preparation couldn't have been much better.
"This is our first week where we haven't had any matches, so we've had an opportunity to focus on some very specific things that we knew were going to help us," Hothan said. "They did a great job of doing that in practice all week long and applying that to today, so I'm very proud of what they did today."
Whether it was between sets, during timeouts or even between points, the word "energy" was uttered countless times by Hothan and her players during the championship match. Hothan credited the energy from the De Soto fans and the bench for fueling the Wildcats to the tournament title.
"You have to have it. I think naturally everybody just kind of rises to the occasion to play against a team that solid," Hothan said. "Lansing is a great team, so the girls always get pumped up to play against them. It's crucial to establish momentum and to get the best out of our players, so I think it played a huge role."
Prior to the championship match, the Wildcats went undefeated in pool play against Hayden, Eudora, Tonganoxie and Leavenworth before outlasting Gardner-Edgerton in three sets, 25-14, 24-26, 25-14.
While De Soto is focused first and foremost on trying to go undefeated in the Frontier League, they have some big goals for the postseason as well. The Wildcats find themselves in the same sub-state as three other top 10-ranked teams in No. 1 St. James, No. 7 St. Thomas Aquinas and No. 10 Pittsburg. Hothan believes that the win over Lansing will not only give the Wildcats confidence to make it through a tough sub-state, but the tools to get better as they go back and reflect on it.
"What this allows us to do is continue to learn and to watch film and watch the things that we did really well so we can continue to apply them in really tough matches that we'll be facing coming up in postseason," Hothan said. "I'm excited about that."
The sub-state also includes Mill Valley, which also competed at Spikefest. The Jaguars started off the tournament with wins over Basehor-Linwood and Baldwin before taking on Lansing. Mill Valley swept Lansing in a home triangular on Thursday, but the Lions returned the favor on Saturday. The Jaguars needed a win over Gardner-Edgerton to earn a spot in the semifinals, but they fell to the Trailblazers in three sets.
Mill Valley will be back in action at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a triangular at Bishop Miege, while De Soto will play host to Ottawa at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.