MHS volleyball opens at state tourney Friday

By Brady Bauman

Manhattan High girls’ volleyball head coach Lisa Kinderknecht has seen plenty of success in her four years as head coach, and that success has been shared with a group of seniors that already has a state title displayed in the trophy case.

On Friday, Kinderknecht’s Indians begin state pool play in Topeka in hopes of adding another championship.

This season marks the third trip to state in four years for the Indians. Manhattan lost to Junction City in sub-state play last season.

“None of us are satisfied with just going (to state),” Kinderknecht said after practice Wednesday. “We want to play Saturday, too, and the way to do that is you have to get in the top two of your pool, and we have a tough pool.”

Manhattan, which finished the season 28-11, is the No. 6 seed in this year’s state tournament.

The Indians open pool play against No. 3-seed Blue Valley Northwest (31-8) at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, with a match to follow against second-seeded Blue Valley (28-7) at 5:30 p.m. The Indians finish pool play with seventh-seeded Maize at 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s semifinals begin at 2 p.m. for those teams that advance.

Senior setter Aubrey Jung said it was important to her that the Indians make another post-season run.

“It was our main goal and priority this season to make it to state — no exceptions,” she said. “So I’m glad we made it. We worked really hard this season and did what we needed to do to win games.

“Not making it to state last year had a lot to do with making us so deterimined to make it this year. We went into sub-state really relaxed and calm about everything, so if we approach (this weekend) that way we’ll be just fine.”

Jung, who leads the team with 38 service aces this season, is among six seniors. She’s joined by middle blocker/opposite Lauren Goralczyk, middle blocker/outside hitter Jessie Kujawa, defensive specialist Erika Hairgrove, outside hitter Kaci Cink, and outside hitter/middle blocker Michaela Braun, who edges out the others with the tallest height of 6-foot-1. Jung is the shortest on the roster at 5-6, but Kinderknecht said what she lacks in size, she makes up in athletic ability.

Kujawa leads the team in kills with 247, while Cink doesn’t trail too far behind with 206.

“We’re all really close,” Jung said about her team — especially her fellow seniors. “We’ve been playing together a long time and I know Jessie and I have been playing together since sixth grade and Kaci and Lauren and Michaela, we’ve all been on club teams together. We’ve been around each other for quite a while.”

Kinderknecht said that familiarity has made this group a fun one to coach.

“They’ve stuck with me through thick and thin and it stung last year for them not to make it to state last year,” she said. “We’re well-rounded (from a volleyball perspective) and we get along. Our team dynamic this year is really good and they seem to get along on the court and off the court, and I really believe it’s added to their success.

“They respect each other tremendously. I’ve always felt privileged to step out on this court everyday.”

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