Each recent year in the Class 3A volleyball tournament, Hesston has improved its showing.
The Swathers might be champions next year.
Hesston (38-7) narrowly missed finishing with the state title Saturday, dropping the championship match to Silver Lake 26-24, 23-25, 21-25 at White Auditorium.
“We got third last year, and we were here the year before that and didn’t make it out of pool play,” coach Jason Peters said. “Every year for about the last five years, we’ve made it one level farther. Semifinals at sub-state, finals at sub-state, won sub-state but didn’t make it out of pool play, third place last year (and) second place this year.”
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Silver Lake (39-6), which lost to Garden Plain in last year’s final, avenged not only that loss but also a 25-20, 15-25, 25-23 loss in pool play Friday to Hesston.
Peters said he knew Silver Lake would remember Friday’s match.
“We knew they’d come out tough,” he said. “They’re a great team that’s been in that championship game so many years. We knew they were going to give us a good battle again.”
Hesston forced 10 ties in the second game after winning the first, but never took the lead.
The Swathers led in the third game by as many as six on two occasions, but Silver Lake chipped away and tied the score at 11-11, then took a 14-13 lead and held onto it the rest of the way.
Hesston graduates six seniors but will return Kailey Ince, a 6-foot-1 junior who had a team-high 19 kills in the title match. Her teammates constantly looked for her, but sometimes she was unable to put it away because of where it was set.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these girls for the way they’ve stepped up, and to imagine several weeks ago that we would be in this position, to be within a few points of a state championship, it’s just unreal,” Peters said.
Cheney finished third with a 25-23, 25-13 victory over Douglass in a matchup of Central Plains League teams. As with the championship game, the Cardinals avenged a pool-play loss when the Bulldogs won 17-25, 25-18, 26-24.
Class 2A – Top-seeded Flinthills hung tough with eventual champion Heritage Christian in its semifinal, but fell to the Chargers 25-20, 25-20.
Matched for third place against Republic County, the eighth seed whom the Mustangs had beaten in three games Friday in pool play, Flinthills fell behind early and couldn’t catch up, finishing in fourth place with a 40-5 mark.
Semifinals: Hesston def. Cheney, 25-19, 22-25, 25-16; Silver Lake def. Douglass, 25-23, 25-23. Third place: Cheney def. Douglass, 25-23, 25-23. Championship: Silver Lake def. Hesston, 24-26, 25-23, 25-21.
Semifinals: (6) Heritage Christian def. (1) Flinthills, 25-20, 25-20; (2) Central Plains def. (8) Republic County, 25-18, 25-11. Third place: Republic County def. Flinthills, 25-16, 25-13. Championship: Heritage Christian def. Central Plains, 25-12, 25-15.