(Kenny Felt/Special to the Tribune)
Chanute and Fort Scott came into the night hoping for a chance to tie or even finish ahead of Pittsburg for the SEK title should the Purple Dragons slip in their triangular at Parsons. However, Pittsburg beat both Parsons and Labette County to clinch its fourth league title in the past six seasons (2006, 2008, 2010, 2011).
Chanute (7-1 SEK, 31-3 overall) defeated Fort Scott, 25-22, 30-28, in the first match and Iola, 25-14, 25-16 in the second to keep their hopes alive. The Tigers then beat Iola 25-12, 25-17, in the night's final match.
Fort Scott (6-2, 15-15) had a very sluggish start against the Blue Comets but then played much better as the match went on.
"When we started against Chanute, we were playing with intensity," Fort Scott head coach Carol Bingesser said. "But we didn't seem to play with a lot of emotion. We were a little flat. I think we were concentrating so hard on trying to stay focused that we didn't have that pep like we needed."
The Tigers never the led the first game but did manage to scrap back after falling behind 8-3. They managed to get within a point several times, the last time at 21-20. A kill by senior Dani Rubow gave the Comets that game,
Chanute scored the first 4 points of the second game. But the Tigers rallied from a 12-6 deficit with 7 straight points to take their first lead of the night.
Fort Scott had five chances to win, going up 24-22, 25-24, and 26-25, then fighting off elimination to tie at 27-27 and 28-28.
"The pep came, the intensity stayed, and I think we were a little bit more excited about playing and that's what carried us a little better," Bingesser said.
Senior Mallory Shelton had 14 kills in the match. Senior setter Kenzie Heatherly had 9 assists while sophomore Maddi Allen had 8.
It was the first time for many Tiger fans to see the new 6-2 offense (2 setters, 6 hitters rortating in) that's been in play for a few weeks. Heatherly is now the first server in the rotation. When she rotates to the front, sophomoree Jillian Lattimer comes in as does Allen. It allows the Tigers to have Lattimer and sophomore Brianne Lawrence both in the front for blocking.
"It's worked out well," Bingesser said. "We get our hands on a lot more things up there with Jill and Brianne up front. And I thought Brianne blocked tremendously tonight. She was on. It took her a little while against Chanute, but then she was right there where she needed to be."
Against Iola (1-7, 7-21), which was playing its final league volleyball match as a member of the SEK before switching to the Pioneer League next season, Fort Scott rolled out to a 13-2 lead in the opener.
The momentum was thwarted a bit when the officials noticed an error in the Tigers' lineup. The time it took to rectify the situation allowed Iola to gather itself and the Fillies ran off 7 of the next 9 points before the Tigers got things rolling again.
Shelton, already playing well, found another level and began to deliver spikes that were impossible for Iola to dig out. A 4-0 run, capped by a Shelton smash ended game one.
Despite a slow start for the Tigers inthe second game -- Iola held an early 8-5 lead -- Shelton's teammates started to get into the act. Sophomore Ericah Shoemaker got into the act, getting 3 kills to help bring the Tigers with 9-8.
"Ericah does that," Bingesser said. "She's kind of a streaky hitter. When she gets one down, you can almost guarantee the next one will be down, too."
Lattimer and Lawrence picked up a couple of kills. Then, an Iola error gave Fort Scott its first lead, 11-10. Lattimer, Heatherly and senior Heather Karleskint made key plays as Fort Scott scored 6 straight points to make it 19-12.
Shelton finished with 13 kills and Shoemaker had 5. Heatherly dished 10 assists and served 3 aces. Shelton had 3 blocks and 2 aces. Allen finished with 7 assists.
It was the final home match for Shelton, Heatherly, Karleskint, Taylor Grant and LaHanna Large.
"They've been a fun bunch," Bingesser said. "They keep things light. They're good leaders. But I think that the best part about them is their humor. Heather Karleskint is the funniest girl I've ever seen. She's a good kid. They led well and I think the girls had a lot of respect for them."
The Tigers conclude the regular season Saturday with the Anderson County Tournament.
JUNIOR VARSITY -- The Fort Scott JV won both matches Thursday night. The Tigers beat Chanute, 25-22, 25-23, as Kelsey Simons had 6 kills and Delane Gray picked up 13 digs.
The Tigers won the second match, 25-23, 25-18, over Iola. Jessie Combs had 6 kills and 3 blocks. Simons picked up 5 kills and Gray had 9 digs.
NOTES -- It was "Dig Pink" Night for breast cancer awareness. The Tigers wore pink uniform tops for the event, which were donated by Mercy Health Center....