By RICK PETERSON
After back-to-back fourth-place state finishes, Seaman;s volleyball team was determined to make a statement in the Class 5A state tournament.
Tatiana Dowling's Vikings accomplished that goal in dominant fashion, capping a perfect 5-0 weekend on Saturday at the Tony's Pizza Events Center in Salina with a 25-19, 25-22 win over defending champion St. Thoms Aquinas in the championship match.
The win was the fifth consecutive straight-set victory for the Vikings, who capped a 38-6 season with the first state volleyball championship in school history while avenging a 3-0 dual loss to Aquinas earlier in the month.
"The way that these girls came out and played with confidence and as a team, it’s just awesome to see them come together that way,'' Dowling, who picked up her 200th career coaching victory, told KSHSAA Covered. "They truly did outwork and outplay today.
"We talked about being relentless on offense and relentless on defense. I felt like they were relentless this whole entire state tournament. It was great to see.''
After winning the Pool I championship with a 3-0 record on Friday, the fourth-seeded Vikings advanced to the championship match with a 25-17, 25-21 win over Maize South.
Seaman rode that momentum through its wire-to-wire 25-19 first-set victory over Aquinas before the Vikings showed their meddle by coming from behind on two occasions to close out the title.
"When we got down, we just kept trusting each other and stayed together,'' Viking junior standout Maegan Mills told KSHSAA Covered. "We were telling each other to calm down, it’s going to be OK. Let’s just do us and not worry about what they’re doing on the other side."
Aquinas finished its season with a 31-9 record as the Vikings turned the tables on the Saints after the earlier 25-21, 25-17, 25-18 dual loss.
"It had a lot to do with our defense,'' Dowling said. "I really felt like we had to pick up our blocking and scrappiness, and I thought we did that.''
Seaman graduates senior stalwarts Brooklyn Gormley and Taylin Stallbaumer off this year's team, but Mills is part of a strong returning nucleus for the Vikings.
Also at the Tony's Pizza Events Center, Mill Valley won the 6A state tournament with a 25-23, 25-19 win over Blue Valley North.
Washburn Rural was eliminated in pool play Friday after winning its eighth state title in 2022.
The Junior Blues went 1-2 in pool play, dropping a 25-19, 25-14 decision to Blue Valley West and a 25-21, 26-24 match to Blue Valley North before rolling to a 25-10, 25-20 win over Miaze.
Eagles bounce back for third-place finish
Sarah Johnson's Silver Lake volleyball team was just a few key points away from a berth in the Class 3A state tournament at Hutchinson's Sports Arena.
But the Eagles quickly bounced back from that tough three-set semifinal loss to Smoky Valley with a gutty performance in the third-place match, finishing third in 3A with a 25-19, 25-23 win over Cheney.
The win capped a 4-1 weekend for No. 6 seed Silver Lake, which finished its season with a 32-12 record.
Heritage Christian captured its third straight 3A state title and fourth overall (2A title in 2020), taking a 25-9, 25-17 win over Smoky Valley in the championship match.
Also at Hutchinson, perennial state champion Bishop Miege captured the 4A state title with a 25-12, 25-14 win over McPherson.
CLASS 5A STATE VOLLEYBALL
At Tony's Pizza Events Center, Salina
Semifinals -- Seaman def. Maize South, 25-17, 25-21; St. Thomas Aquinas def. Spring Hill, 25-12, 25-12.
Third place -- Maize South def. Spring Hill, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21.
Championship -- Seaman def. St. Thomas Aquinas, 25-19, 25-22.
CLASS 3A STATE VOLLEYBALL
At Sports Arena, Hutchinson
Semifinals -- Heritage Christian def. Cheney, 25-17, 25-17; Smoky Valley def. Silver Lake, 22-25, 25-23, 25-23.
Third place -- Silver Lake def. Cheney, 25-19, 25-23.
Championship -- Heritage Christian def. Smoky Valley, 25-9, 25-17.