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Row the Boat

Karl Brubaker

September 10, 2017

Bluebird volleyball has put a 129-3 record in the books the last three years.  Goessel has “hit for the cycle” at the 1A-I state tournament the last 4 years, going single in 2013 (4th place), double in 2016 (3rd place), triple in 2014 (2nd place), and hitting their “home run” in 2015 with their first ever state championship.   Entering her 13th year, Coach Crysta Guhr’s squad has run the table in the Wheat State League each year of the league’s existence and the team looks forward to pushing themselves this year to again exceed expectations.  The team motto in 2017, “Row The Boat,” has the image of “oars as the energy needed to move forward and excel” and the boat “symbolizing what holds the team together.”   Mind you, however, this is no ordinary country pond row boat, but a sleek Olympic class skull that accommodates a bevy of dedicated, driven and enthusiastic players.  All players have worked hard this summer in the weight room and have already come together to begin another great season.

At this writing, Goessel does not know if it will remain in 1A-I or move to 2A in 2017-2018.  Bluebird Seniors Eden Hiebert, Brittney Hiebert, Leah Booton, and Kara Burkholder have every intention of returning to state, no matter what classification Goessel ends up in.  After one week, the Bluebirds are ranked #2 in 1-A I by the Kansas Volleyball Association.  Goessel’s varsity squad also includes Juniors Madi Smith, Audessi Unruh, Stephany Meyer, Savannah Wuest and Sophomore Elizabeth Alderfer.   Bluebird assistant coaches are Paige Booton and Patrick Loganbill.   Managers are:  Brooke Nafziger and Kaleigh Guhr.


Goessel Invitational 2017

Central Christian

Bluebird serving, defense and finishes dominated a young Central Christian squad in the wake-up match of the Goessel Invite.    Servers Brittney Hiebert, Eden Hiebert, and Savannah Wuest recorded 12 aces in two sets as the ‘Birds ran their season record to 5-0.   Goessel allowed the Cougars 1 earned point the entire match and that one came on a roll off the nylon.   The 25-2 first set broke a school record for opponent points allowed in a set.   Bluebird players appeared to see the floor very well, handled every defensive scenario, and earned 19 points the first set and 14 the 2nd set.  Eden Hiebert stepped to the line 9 times at the end of the first set and was credited with 7 aces on 9 service attempts.   Cierra Nolte blasted one cross-court so hard, Kara Burkholder’s Phantom of the Opera shoes glowed.   Leah Booton served to 12-0 in the 2nd.  Stephany Meyer got a nice middle finish and two spectacular blocks.  #7 finished with so many sensational left side whamboozles, the fan with too much coffee in their veins was left gasping for breath.  Goessel notched their first win in Pool A, 25-2, 25-3.


South Haven

Brittney Hiebert came to the line with the ‘Blue up 2-1 and reeled off 5 out of 6 aces to take it to 8-1.  The Bluebirds appear to have spent a great deal of practice time readying their service tactics this year.   The Cardinals stormed back 9-4 but Eden crushed a left side hit on one of dozens of high quality sets from Savannah Wuest today.   Leah put up two more sumptuous aces from the back line and Cierra whacked down a right side fresco.  Stephany touched nicely in the middle for the 16-5 lead and Leah womboosed one down the line so precisely the New York replay showed the ball mark inches inside the line.  At 20-10 a ball caromed through the rafters interminably, Eden slammed it home, then Leah recorded yet another untouchable serve to go to 22-11.    Brittney swatted one off a lovely short slide set in the middle, then Eden went up, coasted in slow motion, and finished with absolute authority.  Goessel earned 19 points and South Haven earned 3; this one closed at 25-13.


In a repeat of the first set, Eden started 1-0 after multiple nice defensive gets/digs.   South Haven kept it knotted at 5-5, but the Blue ran it to 12-6 on a series of exciting plays.  Leah crushed one on the left, Brittney tipped, Leah finished again, then Kara notched two aces, with Leah closing again down the line .   When Eden gets a set in her wheel house, there are few defensive specialists who can even see it, much less react fast enough to dig.  Fan of the Day Oakley Cook was in the house for the first time.  Goessel earned 15 in the 2nd set and cut down their errors to 6.  South Haven earned 7 and the 2nd set finished 25-13 as well.



With both Goessel and 3A Halstead rolling over their first two opponents in pool, Pool A was well ahead of schedule and some fans arriving for the 12:30 scheduled match were too late.   The Bluebirds and Dragons faced off beginning at 11:48.  With Brittney at the line, Goessel started quick, exploding to a 6-0 lead, but the Blue Dragons dug back in it after a controversial call to run off 6 and tie on Bluebird errors and blocks.   Eden brought the Blue back into rhythm with a scintillating barrage (or two) in this close contest, where the lead changed hands 6 times.  Cierra struck from the right with a flaming zinger, then Brittney found nothing but hardwood on a pummel in the middle.  After a Brittney block Eden finished, then Eden blocked and found pay-dirt on the set going back.  With great blocking, digs, and rallies this one was going down to the wire.  Stephany and Cierra put up a huge block to come back at 16-18, then Leah punched a quick poke to tie.  Eden dropped in the absolutely softest marshmallow for the ace and Goessel took the lead for good 19-18.  Another jaw-dropping double block from #13 / #27 left the Dragons reeling and Coach Schutte called time at 22-18.  Leaving nothing on the floor Stephany and Cierra again stopped the Halstead hitter and Audessi dropped in a lovely ace to go to 24-19.  A final kill at first was ruled in but was reversed and Halstead began a comeback run.  After a McKee kill, Coach Guhr called time at 24-23.   With a great pass to setter Wuest, #26 put a short set up to Brittney who very simply spiked it through the Bluebird beak at half-court for the 25-23 win.  Blocking from both sides in the set was outstanding; Goessel earned 18 points against a solid Halstead effort in one of the best matchups of the day.


Goessel looked outstanding at the front end of both Halstead sets.   After a 2-1 start, Brittney stepped to the service stripe and everyone contributed as the Blue went on a 7-0 tear.  #17 put up three aces, Stephany tossed in two nice tips, and Goessel looked strong on digs as back row players contributed big time throughout today’s matches.   Halstead got back in it 13-9, but Leah absolutely shamoozled a crosscourt shot, then hit down the line for another.   Brittney struck from the right on a well-crafted roll, then killed from the middle off a short set that left every defender floundering like disheveled octopi on the hardwood.   Eden pounced in the middle and Cierra finished in fine style with an over the top tip, perfect execution and the 25-15 win.  Goessel earned 19 against Halstead’s 5 in this well played set.  Flag carriers urged the Goessel girls on to bigger and better as the day shifted into afternoon.


In bracket play, Goessel won its pool 3-0 so faced 2nd place Pool B finisher Wichita Independent.   Sedgwick won pool B so faced 2nd place Pool A finisher Halstead.


Wichita Independent

Independent was classed 3A in 2016 and has been a long term invitee to this tournament.  After an extended wait for pool play to conclude, Goessel was ready to face this squad at 3:25 pm.  The teams traded earned points through 5-4 on nice finishes from Brittney and Eden, but Goessel ran it to 10-5 with excellent play from Leah, blocks up front, and an Eden soft as silk ace.  Timeout Indy.   Brittney absolutely hammered one straight down in the middle and Leah was all smiles after threading the needle on the left to lead 12-9.  Goessel moved up 14-9 on a smack-down block from Brittney and yet another strong-arm ace from #19.   On perfect in-rhythm pass/set movement, Eden hit two shots so hard fans felt what the winds of Harvey and Irma might be like as the shock waves passed.   Moments later, Stephany knocked one sideways for a pretty winner and Eden reeled off three straight aces to complement an outstanding Bluebird serving day.   Cierra put down a highlight right side effort to lead 23-12.   After Independent garnered 4, Brittney poked one into the corner for the win 25-16.   Goessel showed some fantastic save/dig work in this set and earned an outstanding 19 of their 25 points.


Goessel never was behind in either set as these two teams battled.   Off nice swats from Eden and a nifty poke from Stephany, the Blue took a 4-1 lead and never looked back.   Stephany and Cierra combined for a sumptuous down block at 6-3, then Stephany harrumphed a lovely slide set down on the right.  Leah notched a solo block and Cierra showed “strong woman” and all smiles as she also stopped the left side hitter at 9-3.   With everything going blue now, Eden laid down two more aces and Independent called time at 13-3.  At 18-8 Leah stepped to the line and Eden swatted straight, crosscourt, left, tipped and every other which way possible for 6 straight points and the 24-7 lead.   This one finished at 25-8.


Championship -  Goessel v Sedgwick

Sedgwick notched a great win against rival Halstead in the first bracket round.    In the Goessel Invitational, this matchup of Bluebirds and Cardinals has almost become a tradition.    Coach Karen Stucky from Sedgwick and Coach Crysta Guhr have both garnered great acclaim, and fans just love watching them both work from opposite benches.  As identical twins with some similar coaching styles, voices, and the same attire (today one had Nike the other Under Armor), players have indicated that sometimes they don’t know which coach is giving them instruction…..  these teams have also had very close relationships over the years, doing service projects  and playing on club and summer league teams together.


This match was a sensational close for the Invitational.  Goessel used final runs in each set to pull away but the action throughout each set was intense and absolutely even.


Brittney started by slaughtering the sphere in the middle, then Leah punched over a back row arc that fell in to lead 2-1.  After several scintillating digs, Eden put one away, then dropped yet another micro-guided soft pillow ball right on the target + dropped a cosmic hard shot right in the corner for two stupendous aces and the 7-3 lead.   Sedgwick delighted with several nice kills and Goessel held a slim lead 9-8.  On a left side tussle at the pylon, Sedgwick’s block was called out and Eden absolutely rocketed one so hard it cracked the large rock in the north parking lot.  11-8.   Brittney and  Wuest combined for a perfect block on Zerger, listed at 5’-9” but who plays at 6’0”.   In the fray, Eden hammered one cross-court to lead 13-10, but again the Cardinals knotted at 13 then 14.  In a key sequence, Cardinal hitters could not find the range and swatted three out.  Timeout: Sedgwick.   Out of the timeout, Brittney and Cierra corralled yet another Cardinal shot on the right and Goessel took a 19-16 lead on a key Sedgwick error in the net.   At 20-17, Eden and Brittney double blocked in the middle and Sedgwick was again called in the net.  Eden and Stephany combined for a wonderful block to go up 23-18.  Eden then found another perfect arc from setter Wuest and blitzed in cross court, untouchable in virtually every way.  A final finger roll on a leaping front row effort from Eden sealed this fine effort from both teams 25-19.  Sedgwick led 0-1; there were four ties but Goessel was never behind in the first set after the first 1-1 tie.


The second set oozed competitive.  With 6 lead changes and 9 ties, this set had it all for players and fans.  Eden started for Goessel with a left side “sphere shellac.”   Savannah executed a flawless dig out of the net, earning hustle points from Luke Unruh even though he wasn’t even there.  This contest went back and forth, ferociously vertical and enticingly horizontal.  Eden broke things open for Goessel with a middle swat and finger roll; Brittney added a service ace to go up 13-10 and Coach Stucky called time.   Kara Burkholder finished a nice tip/roll but the Cardinals flew back in it on several great hits and re-took the lead 14-15.  Timeout Goessel.   Just what the doctor ordered:  Eden with a sumptuous ace and then a triple block from Stephany, Leah and Cierra to go up 18-15.   On errors, Sedgwick was suddenly right there again at 18-18 but couldn’t get over the hump.   Audessi stroked a top spin service that just caught the cusp of the left side of the net, paused, and fell.  Cierra crushed a crosscourt shot that nearly bounced all the way to the JH gym, Brittney caressed a lovely down block, and Brittney/Cierra stretched the iron curtain once again to go up 23-19.  The Cardinals’ Lacey served out to go to 24-20 and return of service from Leah sailed wide for the 25-20 win.   Goessel only earned 13 in the last set and relied on a tiring Cardinal squad making 12 errors.  Sedgwick earned 10 of their 20 points.  Showing great poise down the stretch, Goessel extends its record to 9-0 in the 2017 campaign.


Congratulations to the Lady Bluebirds on another Goessel Invitational win!

It is such an excellent tradition of Goessel volleyball to continue to build character, perseverance, discipline, enthusiasm for each player’s contribution to a team effort, and to have coaches who espouse this mission in every way.  Whether the win column exceeds the L column or not, if these student/athlete traits are visible, the season is a success.  Thank you coaches, administrators, and other support team members!    


Row the Boat!


Karl Brubaker

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