Saturday, 28 November 2020
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Royal Valley Volleyball Wins 3A State Championship
By Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports

Royal Valley is starting to get pretty comfortable inside the Hutchinson Sports Arena. The Panthers apparently love the big stage and know how to shine at the right time as they now have the school's first-ever State Volleyball Championship to add to their runner-up and state championship girls basketball trophies from the last two years at 3A in Hutch.  Royal Valley was completely dominate in going 3-0 in pool play on Friday and then putting a beat down on Cheney 25-17 and 25-17 in Saturday's semifinals before cruising past Beloit 25-19 and 25-18 for the title.  Royal Valley went 10-1 in state games with a lone set defeat coming against Big 7 foe Nemaha Central on Friday morning. Royal Valley finished the season with a record of 39-6. 

Despite it being just the second state volleyball tourney appearance for Royal Valley (3rd in 2014), the Panthers were focused and locked in from the first serve and looked like a team that started this year 25-0 and was ranked #1 throughout the majority of the season. They looked like a team of girls that absolutely love the sport of volleyball and play so well together, despite having only two seniors and no player taller than 5'11 on the roster. After some late season losses, tied to an injury and missed time by key performer Morgan Harvey, Royal Valley was poised and determined to bring another trophy back to Hoyt.  

The first match of pool play really set the tone as Royal Valley knocked off their nemesis Silver Lake.  The Eagles had kept RV from making state the last two years and was the defending state champs who had beaten the Panthers once this year.  Yet, Royal Valley jumped to an 8-2 advantage and despite Lake coming back to tie the score at 20-20, the Panthers finished with a 25-23 win. Royal Valley then came back from an early 5-2 hold to tie the score at 8-8 and took a lead to never look back in route to a 25-21 clincher. 

In another familiar rematch on Friday morning, Royal Valley lost to Nemaha Central 23-25 before responded with a 10-1 push in game two and taking a 25-17 win before taking the lead 9-8 and never looking back in a 25-18 third set win.  Royal Valley then completed a 3-0 pool play by dominating Frontenac 25-16 and 25-10.  

Saturday, Cheney proved to be no match in the semifinal as RV built a 5-1 early advantage and never trailed in game one winning 25-17 and then going ahead 13-2 in the second set to coast to another 25-17 victory. 

The championship was also nearly a cake-walk as Royal Valley played with extreme confidence and was relaxed and dancing from start to finish.  Despite again facing a team with some six-foot gifted athletes, the Panthers teamwork and hustle proved to be the difference in a 25-19 and 25-18 triumph against #1 seed Beloit. 

There is little doubt, Royal Valley will be the overwhelming favorites to win state volleyball again next year, to which Coach Gary Armstrong responded after the win, "We will celebrate this and then look forward to that challenge."  Two special seniors in front-row block specialist Madison Saia and scrappy libero McKenzie Ogden will graduate, but everyone else is back.  Including a phenomenal junior group of setter Emma McKinsey, and hitters Morgan Harvey and Ivy Fink. Fink lived up to her eye-popping season stats with a lot of kills and power hits while Harvey battled and showed a gutsy performance battling through her injury to also deliver many kills and maintain her team top serving status as a lefty.  McKinsey is so good not just as the setter never coming off the court and getting to that second hit, but also blocking and contesting so many attacks on defense.  Freshman, Kennedy Bryan and Tressa Jim also gained valuable varsity rotation and made big plays this season while Emily Wurster-Lowe (sophomore) came in to serve and provide a spark on the back row. 

This slightly shy group was fun to watch because they had fun playing and competing together. With many dedicated to this volleyball sport for many months of each year and several seasons, they now have a state championship trophy to show for their efforts.


©2020 MSC Sports
Hiawatha, KS 66434
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