By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural knows it enters Friday and Saturday's Class 6A state volleyball tournament at Salina in the unfamiliar role of an underdog.
But the Junior Blues also know that until somebody proves otherwise, they rule the 6A roost.
Washburn Rural captured its eighth state championship a year ago and is determined not to give up its lofty perch without a fight.
"We're going to go in every game, play our hardest, and a lot of people aren't really expecting us to have a great run, but we're going to show them,'' senior Jada Ingram said.
And senior Zoe Canfield said there's no doubt that the Junior Blues are playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders.
"Heavy on that chip on the shoulder,'' Canfield said. "I think we're really excited to turn some heads and see what we can do at state. I think a lot of people have doubted us but we've been working hard this season and I think we can prove a lot of people wrong.''
The Junior Blues enter this weekend's state tournament at the Tony's Pizza Events Center as the No. 5 seed at 28-10 and will open their state bid at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Pool I play against No. 4 seed Blue Valley West (29-9).
Rural and Blue Valley West will be meeting for the third time this season, splitting two earlier matches.
Washburn Rural, which is making its 25th state appearance in 29 seasons under coach Kevin Bordewick, will also face top seed Blue Valley North (34-3) at 6:30 p.m. and No. 8 Maize (19-18) at 7:30 p.m. in pool play.
On the other side of the 6A bracket are No. 2 seed Mill Valley (32-5), No. 3 Olathe Northwest (31-5), No. 6 Garden City (25-13) and No. 7 Manhattan (23-14).
The top two finishers in both pools will advance to Saturday's 1 p.m. semifinals, followed by the championship and third-place matches.
Seven of Washburn Rural's 10 losses this season have come against 6A and 5A state tournament teams while the Junior Blues own nine wins over state participants.
The Junior Blues were 6-7 at one point this fall but have gone 22-3 since then.
"I think facing that adversity actually helped us bigtime in the long run this year,'' Bordewick said. "We're going to have a little confidence I think when we walk in there. If you don't then you're shot. We understand what we can do, but we got to show up and do it.''
Washburn Rural benefitted from the mid-season return of Canfield, an All-Stater as a junior, from ACL surgery.
"Honestly it felt like things clicked pretty fast,'' Canfield said of her return. "I thought that it really came together well and it made me really excited for what we could do the rest of the season.''
"We are golden,'' Ingram said. "We are clicking really good, we look really good.''
CLASS 6A STATE VOLLEYBALL
At Tony's Pizza Events Center, Salina
FRIDAY POOL PLAY
Pool I (Court A)
3:30 p.m. -- Blue Valley West (4: 29-9) vs. Washburn Rural (5: 28-10)
4:30 -- Blue Valley North (1: 34-3) vs. Maize (8: 19-18)
5:30 -- Blue Valley West vs. Maize
6:30 -- Blue Valley North vs. Washburn Rural
7:30 -- Washburn Rural vs. Maize
8:30 -- Blue Valley North vs. Blue Valley West
Pool II (Court B)
3:30 p.m. -- Olathe Northwest (3: 31-5) vs. Garden City (6: 25-13)
4:30 -- Mill Valley (2: 32-5) vs. Manhattan (7: 23-14)
5:30 -- Olathe Northwest vs. Manhattan
6:30 -- Mill Valley vs. Garden City
7:30 -- Garden City vs. Manhattan
8:30 -- Mill Valley vs. Olathe Northwest
1 p.m. -- Semifinals
(Consolation and championship matches will begin 25 minutes after last semifinal has concluded)