The Tigers had beaten their first-round opponent Labette County in each of their previous three meetings this season. But the fifth-seeded Grizzlies (17-20) had taken many good opponents, including Fort Scott, to three games several times this season. And they gave the Tigers a good, tough fight before Fort Scott finally prevailed, 25-23, 25-23.
Next was second-seeded Chanute. Although Fort Scott had beaten the Blue Comets at home earlier this season and won the first game of the semifinal 25-17, Chanute eventually began to adjust to the Tigers' strengths and took the final two games of the match, 25-18, 25-19 to end Fort Scott's season at 24-14.
"This is the third time we've seen (LCHS)," Fort Scott head coach Carol Bingesser said. "And it was the same way with Chanute. I told the girls it's hard to play a team three times because they make adjustments. I knew Labette would step up and play us hard. Our downfall was we gave (Chanute) the 10-point lead in the third game. But in that second game, we just couldn't get over the hump with them."
Chanute (24-13) went on to face top-seeded Girard in the finals. The Trojans (33-5) earned a return trip to the Class 4A State Tournament with a 25-16, 25-15 sweep.
Fort Scott jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the first game of the Labette County match. But the Grizzlies fought back and made it tough the rest of the way, tying it at 15-15 and eventually taking a 20-19 lead on an ace serve by Brianna Thorpe.
The Tigers tied it on a kill by Mallory Shelton and got the lead back up to 23-20. The teams alternated points until Shelton ended it with a kill.
Labette County went out to the lead in the second game, getting it to as big as 18-14. A tip for a kill by Libby Halsey started a four-point run which allowed the Tigers go up 19-18.
LCHS got the lead back but couldn't pull away, never getting up by more than one point. Sammi Therwhanger's kill tied the match at 22-22. A Grizzly misplay put the Tigers ahead again and a Therwhanger block made it 24-22. LCHS got a point and the serve on an error but Megan McDermed's tip found the floor and gave the Tigers the match.
Shelton recorded 10 kills and 5 blocks for Fort Scott. Therwhanger had 6 kills and Jenna Campbell had 5. Halsey dished 18 assists.
The Tigers than had to turn right back round and face Chanute, which had played first and swept Columbus, 25-17, 25-13, in the first match of the day on their court. The first game had several momentum shifts but the Tigers managed to pull away a bit in the first game and gain a 16-11 lead.
The Comets got within 17-15 but the Tigers scored 8 of the last 10 points of the game to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Chanute led most of the second game but had trouble shaking off Fort Scott. The Comets' lead was just 18-16 before they began to pull away. They began to block Shelton effectively and their own Aly Aylward and Bailey Erikson began to find open spaces for kills.
"In the middle of that second game, we got tired," Bingesser said. "And when we got tired, we started reaching for things. Then we started overplaying things because we were playing somebody else's ball. Instead of doing what we normally do, we started making adjustments and that wasn't what we needed to do. We needed to step it up and we didn't do that."
Although Halsey served an ace to open the third game for the Tigers, Chanute regained serve and scored the next 5 points. Aylward, a senior, also continued to block Shelton, a sophomore, effectively as the Comets went out to a 14-5 lead without allowing Fort Scott to score consecutive points.
"They had three blockers up there with Mallory," Bingesser said. "We couldn't adjust to that. And they put the ball right back in our face, so that was tough. Whenever we get into a situation where Mallory's getting blocked, we start to tip and then when we make that one rotation, we start tipping again. You can't win ball games tipping, you just can't."
The Tigers began to find a way to get back into the game. A four-point run capped by a Marliss Allen ace brought them within 20-15. But then Aylward found an open spot in the back right corner to end that run.
Down 22-15, the Tigers got one last short run as Therwhanger found the floor on a tip and then got another kill to cut the deficit to 5 points. But the teams traded point for point after that with Chanute taking the match on a kill from Mackenzey Sutcliffe.
Shelton finished with 14 kills and 12 blocks in the Chanute match. Therwhanger had 10 kills and Halsey handed out 12 assists.
The Tigers' season came to an end but they will have an addition to the volleyball banner in the FSHS gymnasium after winning the Southeast Kansas League championship. The senior class won 43 matches in their final two seasons, which is likely the greatest number of victories over two years since the 1996 and 1997 State-tournament qualifying teams.
"We have had a great season," Fort Scott head coach Carol Bingesser said. "That's what I told the girls. We're 24-14 and we won the league and I saw great things out of some kids and some great things out of some kids who will be coming up. The sun will come up in the morning and we'll be all right."