At the beginning of the season, the Parkway West volleyball team wasn’t sure it would get to play even one game. It ended with the Longhorns playing for a state championship.
In their first appearance in the Class 4 Final Four, the Lady Longhorns went up against the Willard Lady Tigers 25-8, 20-25, 25-9, 25-18 at Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
“I’m very happy with my girls and what they accomplished this year,” Parkway West coach Susan Anderson said.
She noted that claiming second place was “a huge accomplishment.”
“I reminded them what the accomplishment was,” Anderson said. “We should be proud of where we got to. I told them over and over, they played to the last game the state allowed and that’s not something every team gets to do.”
The Longhorns wound up 12-5, which tied the best finish in school history. Parkway West also finished second in 2001.
Anderson said, “When the girls showed up on the first day of the season, Aug. 24, I told them very clearly, we will wear masks every second you are in this building, and we have no promise of ever competing. It was tough to say that, and I know it was hard for them to hear. Knowing that information, these girls never questioned their season or the effort they had to put in to prepare for the unknown. I am so proud of them for staying hopeful, and knowing they had to continue preparing for a season they never knew would happen.”
Anderson knew she had a good team. She had a full roster of healthy girls, so she had depth. She said the girls worked hard, they came together and they developed chemistry. She said you always hope for a state championship game.
Aside from COVID-19, there were other changes this year. The state increased postseason play to five classes, up from four. The matches themselves went to “best of five” from “best of three.”
“I feel that adding a class was long overdue to help spread out the teams into more similar-sized schools,” Anderson said. “I also really have liked coaching the best of five games. It changes the strategy of the game, and really gives the kids a chance to relax and play, knowing that dropping one game is not the end.”
The road to state began with Parkway West winning the District 5 championship. The Longhorns scored a 24-26, 25-21, 25-10, 26-28, 15-8 victory over rival Parkway Central.
“This was a very tough match and we knew that if we ended up against Central, they would come in with a fight,” Anderson said. “Central always shows up prepared, on top of being a classic rivalry between the two schools. Our whole team worked hard in this game and everyone contributed in their own way at very important times.”
Anna Pavlisin, a senior outside hitter, earned 22 kills in this match. Senior setter/outside hitter Carly Kuehl scored 18 points. Right side hitter Irene Yannakakis added 14 points.
It was Parkway West’s first district title since 2016.
“The last district title we won was with these seniors as freshmen. Two of those seniors (Kuehl and Pavlisin) were on varsity as freshmen and helped win that last title,” Anderson said. “I know this is very special to those two girls this year.
“It is a blessing and a curse to be surrounded by schools with so much talent. We set up our schedule to face tough teams so we are prepared for the same caliber teams in the postseason, and having our kids play each other only makes everyone better.”
In the sectional, Parkway West defeated Hannibal 18-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-8. In the quarterfinal match, the Longhorns bested Camdenton 25-15, 17-25, 25-18, 18-25, 17-15.
Earning a spot in the Final Four, the Longhorns faced the Platte City Pirates in semifinal. Parkway West earned a 25-27, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 15-12 victory.
That set up the match for the state title with Willard, which ended its season at 31-3-1. The school was able to play an entire season while Parkway West did not.
“Willard was tough,” Anderson said. “We fought for points. This team never gave up.”
Kuehl was a four-year starter for Anderson. Pavlisin, who saw playing time as a freshman, was a three-year starter.
“We’ll miss our seniors. Wen you get to this point in state, so many people have to play well for you,” Anderson said. “Our seniors had a huge role in our success with their leadership and drive on the court.”
Three starters will return next fall for the Longhorns.
“I hope I get to go back with a team,” Anderson said. “Our underclassmen watching a group like this fight through, I hope this gives them the motivation and drive to keep working and getto state themselves. We have a large junior class coming back. We have some other good young players.
“My assistant coaches have done an amazing job pushing and teaching kids the game and getting them to a point where they’re ready for varsity. I am just proud of these girls and we accomplished this season. I’m still trying to take it all in. It was quite an experience. We’re lucky we got to play. And to end up at state, that make all the more special.”