Netters split Saturday in Tongie tourney
The Eudora Cardinals volleyball team (13-3) took four steps forward and two steps back at Saturday's Tonganoxie Invitational Volleyball Tournament.
Eudora began the day with four wins over Perry-Lecompton (25-15, 25-16), Great Bend (25-23, 17-25, 25-22), Bishop Ward (21-25, 25-15, 25-23) and Kansas City Piper (25-15, 20-25, 25-23). The Cards suffered their first loss of the day to Olathe East 19-25, 25-20, 17-25. An exhausted Eudora squad then fell to Tonganoxie 20-25, 23-25.
"We talked about the negatives first, but we always try to finish on a positive," head coach Jill Stutler said. "We beat a 5A school today, and we competed with a 6A school that we beat in a game. We just have to get to another level."
Eudora joined 12 teams from across Kansas in the showdown bridging 3A through 6A competition.
The 12 teams were split into two pools. Each pool produced three teams that met in afternoon bracket play.
Eudora was a member of the white pool, which included Bishop Ward, Great Bend, Olathe East, Perry-Lecompton and KC Piper.
The alternate red pool housed Basehor-Linwood, Bonner Springs, Gardner-Edgerton, Manhattan, Ottawa and Tonganoxie.
Eudora sleepwalked through its 9 a.m. contest with Perry. Great Bend woke the Cards up a little with a second game loss in that match. But it was Ward that really snapped the Cards to attention.
Bishop Ward nearly stunned the Cardinals in three games. After splitting the first two games, Eudora trailed the Cyclones 20-23 in the third. But the Cards rallied behind sophomore Erin Kracl, finishing the match on a 5-0 run.
The Piper match offered much of the same. Again the two teams split their first two games. Eudora looked mentally and physically rattled early in the third, trailing 7-1. TheCards' greatest deficit came at 13-5.
But the Cardinals kept hanging in there, doing just enough to survive. Eudora trailed 19-12 late in the game before making its move. The Cardinals went on an 8-4 run, getting back in the match. Piper remained very close to the upset win though, leading 23-20.
For the second consecutive match, Eudora responded with an incredible 5-0 closing run. Again Kracl played a key role. But perhaps the biggest play was junior setter Kelsey Epperson's unlikely block giving the Cards their first lead at 24-23.
The Piper win secured a top-three finish and an entry into bracket play. And it set the stage for a critical contest with 6A Olathe East. The Hawks entered the match 3-1 with a loss to Great Bend -- also 3-1. The Cards were a perfect 4-0 and a win would lock up the top seed out of the white pool. A loss to East would almost certainly drop Eudora to third place in the pool.
The Cardinals battled hard before eventually falling in three. It was only the second loss of the season for the Cards. As expected, the loss dropped Eudora to third.
The third-seed earned the Cardinals a date with host Tonganoxie. The Chieftains/
Cardinals match-up was one of the most anticipated of the tournament.
Eudora entered the Tongie match fresh off its loss to Olathe East. The Chieftains were more rested following four two-game victories.
It was clear early in the match that Eudora simply didn't have the legs left to offer Tongie its best. The Chieftains outlasted the Cardinals in two close games.
"Very disappointing," Stutler said. "It could have gone either way with no missed serves, better ball control for us, more touches. Had we been fresh it would have been a totally different game. But you can't play the what-ifs. When we see them again, we're coming after them. I'm tired of it."
Stutler didn't accept fatigue as an out, though.
"You can't use it as a total excuse," she said. "We put ourselves in a bind by playing three games with everybody but Perry and we can't do that. When you've got teams on their heels like what we had you can't have let-ups.
"We just didn't have the consistency in communication, which is something we've been working on.
"And the serves; we had over 30 missed serves today. We're going to serve until our arms fall off."
Kracl echoed her coach's communication concerns.
"I think we stopped communicating," she said. "That's when we start playing at other team's levels. It's mainly a communication problem."
"I think sometimes we rely on the fact that we're so close and we think we don't need to talk. But we need to communicate all the time no matter how close we are."
Eudora's rare six-player rotation will once again be put to the test Saturday at the Wellsville Invitational tourney, which starts at 9 a.m.