By RICK PETERSON
Before Tuesday, the last time Class 6A volleyball powers Washburn Rural and OIathe Northwest had done battle was in last season's state semifinals, with the Ravens outlasting the Junior Blues in a three-set marathon on the way to a runner-up state finish.
Kevin Bordewick's nationally-ranked Junior Blues haven't forgotten that heartbreaker, which deprived them of a shot at an eighth state title, and Rural gained a measure of revenge with a 3-0 sweep of Northwest in Tuesday's home dual.
Washburn Rural, which improved to 21-0, blitzed the Ravens in the first two sets, 25-8 and 25-9, before rallying from seven points down to close out the match with a 26-24 third-set victory.
Rural junior Chloe Carlgren said the Junior Blues had added incentive entering Tuesday's rematch with Northwest.
"There definitely was,'' Carlgren said. "We wanted to come back with more fight than last year and we really wanted to beat them because we lost to them at state and if felt good to get back at them.''
Bordewick said that last year's state semifinal loss was a topic of conversation in the days leading into the Northwest dual.
"We talked about last year and how we were a little disappointed and we didn't think we competed as well as we should have,'' said Bordewick, whose Junior Blues finished third in 6A a year ago.
The Junior Blues, who are No. 10-ranked in the AVCA/USA Today national rankings, started off the night in the best way possible, scoring the first eight points with junior Taylor Russell serving as junior Brooklyn DeLeye and sophomore Jada Ingram dominated the net.
Rural went on to build 12-3 and 13-4 leads on Russell kills and took a 20-6 lead on a service ace from senior Katelynn Brogan and closed out the set with five straight points as Russell recorded an ace, DeLeye and Ingram combined for three kills and the set ended on a Northwest hitting error.
The second set was more of the same, with Rural opening up leads of 9-3, 16-5 and 21-6 en route to the 16-point win, which ended on a kill from Carlgren.
DeLeye, who has committed to Kentucky, combined with Ingram for 10 kills in the set while DeLeye had a pair of service aces and sophomore Zoe Canfield, Russell and Ingram also contributed aces.
Northwest, now 15-8, turned the tables on the Junior Blues for most of the third set, leading 4-0, 21-15 and 23-16 before Rural put together a sensational comeback behind DeLeye and the serving of Russell.
Russell had a seven-point service run to tie the game at 23 while DeLeye got five straight kills to lead Rural's charge.
Northwest regained the lead at 24-23 but DeLeye ended the match with three straight kills, giving her 16 unofficially in the set.
"It really is fun to see her pound the ball,'' Carlgren said.
Carlgren said that having a teammate like DeLeye also opens up opportunities for the rest of the Junior Blues.
"It really does because sometimes when we set her a bunch in a row and then go to somebody else (the other team) is not expecting it, so we really do get a lot off of her,'' Carlgren said.
Bordewick said it was important for the Junior Blues to show they could win from behind in the third set.
"I said, 'Hey, you guys dug this hole, now dig yourself out. Let's show some character and fight a little bit,' '' he said.
Washburn Rural def. Olathe Northwest, 25-8, 25-9, 26-24.