Maize South volleyball coach Teri Larson was ecstatic Tuesday night.
The Mavericks had just beaten Collegiate (21-25, 25-23, 25-18), Andale (25-19, 25-19) and Buhler (25-22, 25-17) to improve to 26-12, but what thrilled her about that was seeing her team finally reaching its potential.
Larson has seen her daughter, sophomore setter/outside Jody, dominate. Jody Larson did it again Tuesday, finishing with 36 kills and four stuff blocks in three matches.
"Everybody knows who our go-to player is," Teri Larson said. "I've told the girls, 'you have to step up. They'll triple block her or shut her down, she'll wear down. You can do this.'
"They're finally believing in themselves that they can do it. That is the key, that is the key."
That was especially important for Larson to see because not only is the postseason a little more than a week away, but the Mavericks were coming off a big weekend. They finished second at the Derby tournament on Saturday, beating Derby and Newton before falling to Class 6A power Washburn Rural in the final.
Larson pointed specifically to junior Hannah Jennings, who had seven kills in the win over Collegiate. This season Larson moved her to setter, a position Jennings had never played, because she provided more athleticism at the position. But Jenning's hitting suffered.
"She was thinking too much," Larson said. "Finally, it's all coming together."
Maize South has other hitters besides Jody Larson, who force defenses to pay attention when the ball heads their way. They include Kelsey Sterneker, Rebekka Hepford, Kelsey Pracht and Mackenzie Obermeyer.
The Mavericks took care of Andale and Buhler, but the match against Collegiate was tough. They had a 10-3 lead in the first game, forcing a timeout by Collegiate.
Collegiate rallied, winning that first game 25-21.
"I thought there was a good chance we'd lose 25-10," said Collegiate coach Donnie Wallace. "But we responded."
Torrie Rupe was the key; she had two kills and two stuff blocks in the game's final seven points. She finished with 16 kills in the match, while teammate Ashia Woods had five kills, three stuff blocks.
The second game was back and forth until Maize South rattled off five unanswered for a 23-19 lead. While Collegiate got within 24-23, Obermeyer put the game away with a kill from the middle.
In the final game, Collegiate stumbled, committing 13 unforced errors.
"This is high-level (volleyball)," said Wallace, whose team is 27-7. "This is the atmosphere we should relish, knowing this is preparing us for the postseason. Right now, we're not (relishing it)."
Andale defeated Buhler 25-14, 29-31, 25-23 to improve to 18-18. Buhler is 14-16.