After more than a week of not playing, the Manhattan High volleyball team couldn’t quite get over the hump against one of the top teams in the state at the Highland Park quad in Topeka Tuesday.
Facing 6A defending state champion Washburn Rural in the opener, Manhattan came out strong but sputtered midway through each set to lose to the Junior Blues 25-18, 25-14 before sweeping Emporia (25-17, 25-14) and Highland Park (25-12, 25-11) to salvage the night.
Manhattan head coach Lisa Kinderknecht hoped the long layoff didn’t factor in to her team’s loss in the opening match.
“You would hope that it doesn’t matter how long we haven’t played, that our girls would get up for Washburn Rural,” she said. “I’m not saying they didn’t. The good news is that’s something that can be remedied. Because in my opinion, if we play the way we’re capable of playing, we’re very capable of beating Washburn Rural. But we have to be a little bit more mentally tough.”
The problems for Manhattan against Rural were the usual ones. One bad thing led to another until it was too late.
“Once another team gets on a roll, then our M.O. all year is to allow it to snowball,” Kinderknecht said. “They don’t get on each other, they just kind of shut down. We’re working on that. We really could never recover in that second set.”
Kayla Shields led the Indians in kills with nine on the night. Jessie Kujawa had eight. Aubrey Jung had 36 assists and four aces, with Allie Massanet leading with 17 digs. Colbi Brooks was right behind with 15 digs.
Once Manhattan settled in, the Indians turned things around against Emporia and Highland Park, allowing Kinderknecht to use her depth and give more kids the chance to play.
In the final match against the Scots, Taylor Good served seven-straight points to pace the Indians, turning a previous problem of snowballing mistakes into a string of points for Manhattan.
The Indians had an injury on the night, with sophomore hitter Kelsey Schroll hurting her ankle in the first set of the Rural match.
“She came back but didn’t feel as though she could get it done,” Kinderknecht said. “But we’re hoping to have her back on Saturday.”
Saturday is Manhattan’s home tournament, which is scheduled to feature some tough competition and get started with pool play at 9 a.m.
“Our tournament is really a strong tournament, so we’re not going to be able to have any letdowns if we want to find success there,” she said. “We have to have the confidence in ourselves to complete a set and a match, especially in the competitive ones.
“We’re getting there. Nobody wants to win more than those girls — they just have to believe that they can.”