When the observation was made that Kapaun Mount Carmel volleyball has had plenty of high and low points, coach Terri Hessman laughed.
"Yes, that pretty much sums it up," she said. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster."
Kapaun's currently riding a high after advancing to the Class 5A tournament, which begins today at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
"This is awesome," said Jenny Gerlach, Kapaun's lone senior. "We made it to state last year and we didn't perform real well. We want to go back up there and redeem ourselves and show how we can really play."
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The Crusaders (24-14) have an easy excuse for their up-and-down season — youth. The Crusaders start two freshmen and, depending on the rotation, also start two sophomores.
But Hessman refuses to place the blame on youngsters.
"People say, 'it's OK, you're young,' " said Hessman, whose team finished tied for fourth in the City League. "I told the girls, 'it's not OK. You're playing varsity, it doesn't matter your age. You have to run with the big dogs.'... They were good enough to make the varsity team, so they have to play like a varsity team. No one cares how young we are."
Hessman blames inconsistency for her team's losses in matches she believes they should have won.
"Is it a mindset, are we prepared?" Hessman said. "I don't know. Sometimes I'm just not feeling it. We go out there and play great some nights. I'm so proud of them when we put it all together. And then other nights, we just don't show up. We have ups and downs like crazy."
There has been progression, though. Hessman was especially pleased with how the Crusaders played in their final City League matches against West and Heights, and then in sub-state.
Finally, the hitting, setting and passing were in sync.
"We might give up a couple points, but we'd get it together and get it right back," setter Molly Faragher said. "We weren't doing that at the beginning of the season. We were letting the other team make long runs, and we couldn't pull it together and get it back."
It doesn't hurt that the Crusaders are talented.
Setters Jenna Golay and Faragher are solid.
"You can't shake Molly," Hessman said. "She knows what's going on.... And Jenna, she throws the ball right where we need it. Her hands are money."
Kapaun's main strength is its hitting.
Gerlach, who started playing back row this season, is a standout middle hitter. Freshman Audrey Grant, an outside, has had matches where she's had a .600 kill percentage.
And then there's 6-foot freshman Sydney Kuhn, who is already getting looks from college coaches.
"She came in ready to play ball," Hessman said. "She's not messing around.... She's playing all the way around now, too. At the beginning of the year, I played her front row, but I can't afford to take her out of the back row. She gets junk up that hardly anyone can."