Although Andover Central won its first 17 volleyball matches, coach Kelly Cook had several questions heading into last Saturday's Newton tournament.
"We all kind of wondered what we'd play like against a faster team and a bigger team," Cook said.
Consider those questions answered.
Andover Central improved to 23-0 after beating Northwest in the final and Salina South in the semifinals.
"One of the things we talked about going into those matches was that we have to hit higher, not straight into the block," Cook said. "We had to use our speed and push blockers from pin to pin and out-play with our speed."
Kelsey Banwart leads the Jaguars in kills and aces, and is a key as a setter in the 6-2 offense. Sophomore Mackenzie Harding is back after tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament during basketball season; she was cleared to play three days before the season.
"She has come back stronger and harder and she's more athletic," Cook said.
But Cook is most thrilled with her players' willingness to contribute.
"They are just fierce, they are competitive and they all play their roles and accept their roles," she said.
A new challenge — When Teri Larson was hired as Maize South's first volleyball coach, she knew it wouldn't be easy. It's not.
Maize South has no seniors, so Larson starts three freshmen, two sophomores and a junior.
"I was pretty nervous this summer," Larson said. "I had only one girl with varsity experience... but they have worked really hard and they have bought into my system."
Sophomore middle Mackenzie Obermeyer is the only player with varsity experience, and freshman Jody Larson, the coach's youngest daughter, is a setter in the 6-2 offense.
The season has been tough on Jody Larson.
"I've never expected so much from a freshman and she's got a lot of weight on her shoulders," Teri Larson said. "She's shy in some ways, and it's been kind of hard. She definitely is very talented ... it doesn't go to her head, but she feels like she's got to take everybody on her shoulders. I think it's getting easier."
Tough road — Northwest (14-5) had a good showing at the Newton tournament, beating Newton in the semifinals before falling to Andover Central in the final.
"It's not the outcome I wanted, but it will do," Northwest coach Dianne Popp said. "We're not playing as good as we can; we're still not there. ... But we're serving it really good and serve-receiving it really good and our defense is good."
Northwest is in the middle of a tough stretch. The Grizzlies lost to Kapaun last Thursday, went to the Newton tournament, play at Carroll tonight, go to the Great Bend Invitational on Saturday, then play host to North and Heights on Oct. 6.
"I'm looking at my calendar, 'When are we getting a break?' " Popp said.