It was a Crawford-Neosho-Cherokee showdown as St. Mary’s Colgan volleyball defeated both Girard and Frontenac to earn the CNC Championship Tuesday at the SMC Fieldhouse for Colgan’s Senior Night Pink Out.
“Tonight, I really think they played fantastic,” Colgan head coach Cathy Oplotnik said. “I feel like we have such a great group of girls. This is a very great accomplishment for them.
The Panthers came into the triangular matchup with a perfect 5-0 record in the CNC, while the Trojans and Raiders each held a record of 4-1. After Colgan defeated Girard 25-20 and 30-28 in the opening match, and the Raiders beat the Trojans 25-12 and 25-18 in match two of the night, the final matchup between SMC and FHS decided the CNC League Championship. The Panthers’ strong play continued as they moved past Frontenac in straight sets, 25-18 and 25-20, earning the right to be called league champs.
“It really means a lot to us. When the seniors were in third grade, we were the water girls for the high school team,” Madison Marietta said. “They fought for the CNC so hard that it was an inspiration to us. Since the third grade, this has been our goal. We feel on top of the world because it finally happened.”
With the pair of wins, the Panthers improved their record to 7-0 in the CNC and 33-3 overall this season.
“We have a lot of positive things to build on from tonight. Our blocking has improved tremendously, and I felt like our defense played extremely well tonight,” Frontenac head coach Cassie Rhuems said. “We were rocking on all cylinders against Girard and kept the offense moving. We had some trouble shutting down the middle against Colgan which made it difficult for us to run the fast offense we intended to run. Hats off to Colgan on a great season and winning league, they have a very competitive team.”
Much of the Panthers’ success this season has been because of the senior laden roster. Those girls — Sydney Russell, Haydn Dawson, Madison Marietta, Halee Pace, Kylee Duncan, Faith VanBecelaere and Brittany Emerson — were all honored in front of the packed crowd.
“I am super excited for them,” Oplotnik said. “They’ve really come along to help lead this team.”
The first set between the Panthers and Raiders was neck and neck before a five-point run with Kamree Pace holding serve.
Duncan earned the sideout following a kill, and the Panthers pushed across four more points to build their lead to 15-10. Dawson had a pair of kills in the run.
SMC scored a point following every sideout in their favor, propelling them to opening-set win.
The Radiers came out in the second set with a purpose and climbed out to a 4-3 lead early.
From there, the was back and forth between the CNC rivals. Kaylee Harper had a strong set for the Raiders, leading the way for their offense with nine kills.
The Panthers forced a sideout to go up 18-16 and followed with a game-deciding four-point service run from Marietta.
Kate Radell started things off with a kill down the left side which hit the line. A pair of Duncan kills with an FHS attack error in between pushed the Colgan lead to 22-16. The Panthers went on to use the momentum to close out the set and match minutes later.
“We got down a few points and it didn’t seem to phase them,” Oplotnik said. “That’s the biggest takeaway for us. They all played very well tonight.”
Marietta led the Panthers in digs on the defensive end with 12 on the night. Kamree Pace finished with seven.
SMC’s Emily Paterni had 32 assists in the four sets of winning volleyball. Halee Pace added 18.
The kill leaders for St. Mary’s Colgan were Dawson and Duncan, both of whom finishing with more than 20 each. Dawson led SMC with 22, while Duncan was one behind at 21.
Leading the way on offense for the Raiders was senior Lauren Hipfl, who finished the night with 17 kills and two blocks.
Shelby Blythe had 11 kills , while Harper finished with 12. Blythe added a team-high six blocks.
Kayla Meyer had had 43 assists to lead Frontenac.
On the defensive end, Hipfl added 31 digs, while Abby Johnson finishing with 30 and Emily Merando coming in with 24.
Girard’s Ashley Ray led the team in kills with 20, while Calea Augustine had 13 Sydnee Crain finished with 11.
Crain led the team in digs with nine.
Laney Shireman was Girard’s assist leader with 42 total.
Sub-state is just around the corner, and the Panthers will be hosting a Class 2A Sub-state tournament with West Elk, Madison, Olpe and Oswego.
“Winning the CNC is great because it’s a hard league,” Marietta said. “It helps us boost our confidence a lot heading into sub-state. Even though we won the CNC tonight, we are going to get after it tomorrow.”
Girard is hosting a Class 4A Sub-state tournament this Saturday with Baxter Springs, Columbus and Frontenac all participating.