The Lady Thunderbird volleyball team enjoyed another outstanding season in 2013. With almost everyone returning from last year’s state-qualifying squad, odds were that Skyline would again be a force to be reckoned with. And they were.
Although falling short of returning to the State meet this year, the Lady T-Birds did pull off the Heart of the Plains double for the second consecutive time— going undefeated in league play to win the HOPL regular season, and following that up with a victory in the HOPL postseason tournament.
Skyline began the season by rattling off 10 consecutive victories. They then went 3-2 in the tough Kiowa County Tournament before sweeping their next three games to improve to 16-2, at which point they had made their way into the 2A rankings.
The Garden Plain Tournament may have been the low point of the season for Skyline as they went just 1-4 against some difficult competition. That was quickly followed, however, by what might have been the season’s high point the following week— going 6-0 and playing extremely well to defend their HOPL tournament championship.
The regular season closed with a dominating sweep of Word of Life and Macksville on senior night to set the stage for the playoffs.
The Thunderbirds got a tough draw in the 2A sub-state they hosted, with 3 other ranked teams in the field. Skyline dispatched Kinsley in the opening round before having their season come to halt with a narrow 3-set defeat to Kiowa County.
Four Lady T-Birds received all-HOPL honors for their efforts this season. Named to the first team were seniors Janessa Davis, Kaitlyn Stark, Taylor DeWeese and junior Alyssa Swonger.
Taylor DeWeese has been recruited to play volleyball at PCC next year. “She has improved so much since her freshman year,” Skyline head coach Summer Younie said. “She was such a great leader for us this season. She was always positive, always encouraging, and always leading by example.”
Janessa Davis was a steady, consistent passer and Kaitlyn Stark did a great job of running the offense from the setter position, Younie recalled.
In addition to those three seniors, three other Lady T-Birds will be lost to graduation: Shelby Bender (a Bethany signee), Mycha Owens and Taylor Tobin. Younie said that the T-Birds would miss Bender’s energy and communication, and that her serving had been a big offensive weapon.
Tobin was credited by Younie for great improvement since her freshman year, and for displaying a tremendous attitude and work ethic. Owens return to the squad at the libero position was a big factor in the Lady Thunderbirds’ success this season, mentioned Younie.
As might be expected, the seniors and all-leaguers figured prominently in the Thunderbirds season stat rankings. Alyssa Swonger led in kills with 188. Taylor DeWeese and Alyssa Swonger both had 60 blocks. Shelby Bender led with 49 service aces. Mycha Owens carded 264 digs. Setter Kaitlyn Stark racked up 387 assists.
Page 2 of 2 - There will be some big shoes to fill for Skyline next season with the graduation of six solid performers. The cupboard will not be bare for Coach Younie, however. Alyssa Swonger will return as an all-league hitter. “She really stepped up big for us this season,” Coach Younie said. “She provided a lot of leadership this season which gives me a lot to look forward to next year.”
Frosh Kamryn Stark set nearly as many balls as her older sister, and will return. Jessica DeWeese was heavily involved in the rotation and will return her athleticism to the mix.
Payje Orler and Betsy Giles were among the reserves who saw enough playing time to be considered experienced returnees next year.
“Next season, we will definitely be shorter,” Younie predicted, “but I think we’ll be more athletic. We may not block as many balls, but we’ll play some great defense. We may have to adjust our offense to account for our smaller hitters, but they are such a fun group of girls that I am really excited about next season.”