Lady Wildcats heads to first state tourney since 1985

The Lady Wildcats celebrate Saturday after defeating Circle in substate action (PHOTO: Olivia Haselwood)

EL DORADO — In and event 32 years in the making, El Dorado volleyball team is going to state.

The Wildcats defeated Abilene and then first time all season defeated Circle in two sets in the championship round Saturday.

There were tears on both sides, hugs and lots of emotions. For coach Chelsea Helena it wasn’t a night for words.

“I’m speechless,” she said following the awarding of the substate championship trophy.

The Lady T-Birds completed their season 21-16 after falling to El Dorado. They ended their regular season 20-15 and entered the substate tournament Saturday a No. 2 seed. The Lady Wildcats entered the evening the No. 4 seeds with an 18-19 regular season record. They will enter state next week with a 20-19 record overall. State play begins Friday at at Salina’s Tony’s Pizza Events Center. El Dorado is a No. 7 seed and will play Independence at 9 a.m. Ulysses at 10:30 a.m. and Wellington at 12:30 a.m. at court B.

Starting the afternoon was El Dorado taking on Abilene who was a No. 1 seed. Abilene quickly defeated the Wildcats 25-11 in the first set.

El Dorado overcame their jitters and went on to defeat Abilene 25-19. After the first point, the Wildcats never trailed during the set.

The third set was more of a battle. Both teams went back and fourth tying several times. Finally after typing 8-8, the Wildcats surged ahead. Despite their best efforts, Abilene fell behind with El Dorado finally winning 25-17. Sealing it was a spike by Jamison McCaig.

Next on the afternoon was a matchup between Circle and Wamego, and again it was the underdog taking the lead. Wamego defeated the T-Birds 25-12.

The second set was a close one the entire way through. Circle held a slight advantage, but never led by more than five points. At the end of the set Wamego tried to make a comeback bring the set within one at 22-21. Two kills by Mallory Cowman and a out hit by Wamego later, the Lady T-Birds found themselves in a tiebreaker after winning 25-21.

The third set looked to be much like the second to begin with both teams trading leads. However, several miscues by Wamego gave Circle the advantage, which they took advantage of. The T-Birds grabbed the lead and never looked back defeating Wamego 25-13 to move to the championship round.

In the regular season, Circle met El Dorado on the court several times. Each time it had been a Thunderbird victory. However, both teams were looking past to state and both wanted it badly. This time though it was the Wildcats that had Circle’s number.
In the first set, the score was tied seven times. El Dorado held the lead for a bit, then Circle did. A block by Wildcat Carly Clennan started a rally that put the Wildcats out front for good after an 11-11 tie. Led by Mara Stewart serving, El Dorado went on a 10-0 run from trailing 11-9 to lead 18-11. The T-Birds shaved a few points off that lead towards the end of the set, but kills by Holly Gregg and tips by Sydney Scanlon kept the Wildcats ahead for a 25-20 win.

The second set started much like the first. This time the set was tied eight times with four lead changes. A combination of Wildcat blocks at the net and kills put El Dorado back out front. The set stayed solidly in the Wildcat’s control for most of the time.

Trailing 20-15 Circle made a comeback. Shae Weatherson had a kill, and Alicia Banuelos an ace to put Circle within one point at 20-19. From this point on every point was a battle for both teams. The Wildcats gained a point, only to have Circle return the favor. It was a kill just in bounds by Jamison McCraig of El Dorado that started the ending run for the Wildcats. A block and a hit later El Dorado was state bound with a 25-20 victory over Circle.



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