When it was their time, this class of Maize volleyball seniors made it their mission to make a statement at the Class 5A tournament.
There are six of them — Maddie Baumer, Kaitlyn Blume, Autumn Hanna, Lexi Montana, Ashlyn Lakin, and Julianna Ledbetter — and they are the leaders of this Maize team off to a 25-6 start and ranked among the top teams in 5A. The Eagles will have their chance to qualify out of their sub-state hosted in Valley Center on October 21.
“We talked about this whole summer coming in and doing big things for our senior year,” Ledbetter said. “I think our biggest goal was to get to the second day of the state tournament and then make a statement.”
Last year Maize’s seven-year run qualifying for the state tournament was snapped. The Eagles reached the 6A championship in 2010, but finished a combined 1-14 at the state tournament from 2011-15.
That’s the motivation for this class to not only return to the state tournament in Topeka later this month, but to win at the state tournament. Maize coach Betsy Manning isn’t surprised her team is among the best in 5A this season, despite losing its top hitting option from last season.
“I have an incredible group of six seniors who are not just fantastic athletes, but look at how many of them play all the way around,” Manning said. “They can do it all. We have a couple of great young athletes and this team has gelled just how we wanted them to.”
The value of having players who can defend at the net, as well as receive on the back line is invaluable to Manning.
“Usually you see teams have to sub in and out a lot,” Manning said. “Most teams struggle if the first ball goes to their setter, but we’re still able to get a hit on that third ball because we have five other people on the court who can set for us. Everybody can do it all.”
Baumer and Lakin have excelled this season in expanded roles hitting from the outside, while Hanna and freshman Mallorie Koehn have been held down the middle. Blume and Brianna Allen are the team’s defensive specialists, while Montana and Ledbetter split time between setting and hitting.
It has all added up to Maize picking up quality victories this season over Blue Valley, Washburn Rural, Newton, Goddard, Andover, and Garden City.
“We’re really close this year, so I think that really helps us out there on the court since most of us have played together since we were in middle school,” Baumer said. “We’re all really good at sharing the balland talking to each other on the court. We have some really good passers and setters and all of us know how to put the ball down.”
That chemistry is what Maize is hoping will allow it to make a run as deep as it wants to in three weeks.
“I think our chemistry is really going to make our team stand out from the others,” Ledbetter said. “We get along so well and if we keep that up and we play together as a team, then we’re pretty much unstoppable.”
Maize will next play in the Emporia tournament next weekend.