Hickman didn’t plan on staging back-to-back comebacks to repeat as district volleyball champions. It just kind of worked out that way.
The Kewpies defeated Troy Buchanan in the championship match of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament 19-25, 25-21, 25-16.
Earlier, they lost the first game of their semifinal match against Rock Bridge 20-25 before winning the next two games 25-22, 25-20.
In both matches, the Kewpies didn’t come out firing in the first game.
“It wasn’t really a strategy,” said junior Jenny Keener. “I think we underestimated Rock Bridge and Troy a little bit in the first game.”
Troy’s serves in the first game were harder than those the Kewpies had seen from Rock Bridge.
“We definitely had to adapt,” said senior Lindsey Fleming. “Their serves were really hard so a lot of our passes didn’t go right up to (setter Krystal Stone) so we couldn’t make a clean front row attack. We had to attack from the back row.”
The back row attacks helped Hickman take the second game.
The third and decisive game was a battle of perseverance, as the players were noticeably fatigued.
“Coach (Greg Gunn) told us before the third game (of the Troy match) that it would be a challenge of who could remain focused longer and who really wanted it the most,” Keener said. “And we wanted it the most.”
Troy coach Colin Nelson said his team, which was undersized compared to Hickman, was exhausted from playing back-to-back matches that went to three games.
“We just kind of ran out of gas,” he said. “Hickman got a rest but we had to play back-to-back games. When you get worn down like that in the end, the size starts to matter. If you’re tired and 6-foot as opposed to tired and 5-7, it is hard.”
Gunn said he recognized the Bruin momentum and was a little concerned.
“The Rock Bridge match could have gone either way,” he said. “We were not in a rhythm and clicking on all cylinders. They played us the toughest all year. We felt fortunate to get out of that match.”
Hickman will play defending Class 4 state champion Incarnate Word on Saturday in St Charles. The Red Knights (33-0-1) are champions of District 5 and ranked third nationally by prepvolleyball.com. The match is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Charles High School.
“We realize they are going to be up on their game,” Fleming said. “It’s kind of like when we played (Kansas state champion) Bishop Miege earlier in the season. Our goal is to keep up with them, play good volleyball and have fun. If we can do that, maybe we can win a game or maybe even beat them.”