Stunning rally caps near-perfect performance
Well, that happened.
Facing a 17-24 deficit, the Warriors fended off six consecutive game points behind the deft serving of sophomore Kourtney Hansen to win the Heart of America league tournament.
“They’re prone to making great comebacks, and they did,” head coach Brea Campbell said. “Me and coach (Amanda McMillin) were both just sitting there like, ‘No way.’”
After knotting the game at 24, removing the game-point pressure, the Warriors did not relent. The students faithful in attendance cheered the indefatigable Warriors to victory to clinch the set, the match, and the tournament.
“We kind of gave up, but we just kept winning rallies,” Hansen said afterward. “We looked up and it was like, 24-21, and we thought, ‘Oh, we can actually do this.’”
As the Warriors inched closer and the fans went further into a frenzy, Hansen, under enormous pressure to keep the Warriors’ hopes alive, was smiling and laughing.
“I don’t usually get nervous, but when it got close, yeah,” she said. “It’s intense.”
When the final point was put down, the Warriors bench stormed the court to help celebrate a monumental comeback.
“It was unbelievable,” Hansen said. “It seemed like we won substate. We couldn’t have done it without all the rallies we had.”
Hansen had plenty of help for those rallies. Hansen and junior outside hitter Shelby Felvus were on the floor with four steady-handed seniors for the closing points.
Libero Erika Hess provided tremendous passing, blocker Marshelle Mermis made herself an unwieldy obstacle at the net, right-side hitter Bailey Robson delivered clutch hits, and setter Kirsten Hansen kept the Celtics completely off-balance.
At one point, the setter Hansen returned a ball from outside the left court boundary, sprinted back and executed a running, leaping fist-bump over the net for a kill.
The fans waited until the Warriors received first-place plaques before rushing to congratulate their tournament win.
It came on the tail end of a long day of dominance for the Warriors, who already had beaten Inman, Bennington, Moundridge, Ell Saline, and Sedgwick, allowing only Moundridge to force a third set.
“It was a huge moment for them, and I am so proud of them because it was all them,” Campbell said. “They had the heart.”
Now substate looms for the Warriors, and a Southeast of Saline team that’s been a veritable bogeyman, knocking them out of last year’s substate tournament and handing the Warriors one of their three losses this season.
Saturday’s tournament victory gives the Warriors a boost of confidence.
“I think going into substate we’ll have a little bit of ‘oompf’ under us,” Kourtney Hansen said. “It will mean a lot.”
Southeast of Saline will be host for the substate tournament, which also features Hutch Trinity, Sedgwick, Lyons, Hesston, Halstead, and Council Grove.