Kennedy seeks to contend for a top-four finish in the coming state volleyball tournament

by: PHIL HAWKINS - After earning the second seed in the Tri-River Conference tournament this week, the No. 8 Trojans volleyball team has already secured a berth to the 2A state playoffs. Before state can begin, Kennedy need to beat Regis Thursday to forge a conference title match against the No. 3-ranked Culver Bulldogs. Of Kennedys three losses this season, two have come against Culver. The Kennedy volleyball team put a wrap on its regular-season schedule last week with a 3-0 victory (25-8, 26-24, 25-16) over visiting Western Mennonite.

The Trojans finished the season with the Tri-River Conference’s No. 2 seed in the league playoffs, earning an automatic berth to the 2A state playoffs in the process.

But before Kennedy can focus on the state tournament, the team must set itself up for success in the league playoffs that start this week.

Kennedy opens with a Thursday game against third-place Regis, with a trip to face No. 2-ranked Culver on Saturday.

“Our strong point is that we have three strong hitters in the front row at all times,” said Kennedy coach Staci Sprauer, who wants the team to build on its strengths for the coming tournament.

The Trojans have twice bested Regis in the regular season, and Sprauer wants to dispatch the Rams a third time in order to secure a rematch with the league-champion Bulldogs.

“We’re not looking past Regis, but as far as athletes are concerned, we have — I think — better quality athletes,” she said.

If the Trojans get by the Rams, they’ll have another chance to beat Culver, a team that has swept the No. 8 Trojans in two games this year.

“It comes down to consistency,” said Sprauer. “I think Culver’s had more games than us and more game time to form that team unit.

“We’re as talented as they are point for point,” she continued. “It’s just a matter of keeping up the consistency and keeping our focus up and our energy level up.”

Regardless of where the Trojans finish in the league playoffs, the team is guaranteed a spot in 16-team bracket play that starts Nov. 2.

A win in the first round would book the Trojans on a repeat trip to the eight-team tournament in Redmond. Sprauer hopes the team makes it that far and improves upon last year’s finish when the team qualified for the final eight but lost two straight matches to finish the season.

Sprauer preaches sticking with fundamentals to guide the team through the playoffs toward their goal.

“Our goal this year is top four in state, but realistically, on any given day, if we’re on then I think we’re unstoppable,” Sprauer said. “It’s hanging onto that consistency and keeping our focus and our energy at a higher level and not having our heads drop.”

The Trojans (18-3, 14-2 Tri-River) host the Regis Rams (11-6, 11-5) at Kennedy High School Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

The winner will go on to play at Culver High School (23-2, 16-0 Tri-River) Saturday.

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