Area standouts: Homecoming good for Gardner, Osage City voll

Area standouts: Homecoming good for Gardner, Osage City voll

Postautor: Angel92 » 12 paź 2017, o 08:18

Despite injury-plagued season, Indians complete undefeated Flint Hills League championship with sweep of Central Heights
Leaving Burlingame was not an easy decision for Chelsi Gardner for a number of reasons.
For starters, it was the school that gave Gardner her first volleyball head coaching gig, turning the program over to her in 2009. In seven years, she turned the program into a consistent winner, compiling a 143-89 record and guiding the Bearcats to the 2012 Lyon County League title.
With a dearth of young talent on hand and on the way, Burlingame volleyball is in a good spot.
But home, in Gardner’s mind, was a better spot and when the Osage City job came open last spring she jumped at the chance to coach her alma mater.
“It’s a position I’ve wanted for a while — it’s my home town. It’s where I grew up. It’s where my husband and our family lives,” said Gardner, a 2004 Indian graduate. “My daughter is just starting kindergarten and it was a really good time to move over here.
“I know there’s a lot of talent (at Burlingame) and there are some eighth-graders coming up who are really talented. Burlingame took me in as a rookie and I built something proud of there. It was difficult to leave and I had multiple opportunities to leave but it just didn’t feel right. But when I was offered the position at Osage, it was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Gardner’s first season at Osage City hasn’t exactly been a smooth one with injuries and defections keeping her lineup in nearly constant flux since the first month of the season. But she’s managed to push all the right buttons so far and with Tuesday night’s 25-13, 25-9 and 25-20, 25-10 sweep of Central Heights, the Indians capped a 14-0 run through the Flint Hills League.
The league title was the first since 2010, the same year Osage City also captured the Class 3A state championship.
“Coming in as the new kid, I wasn’t sure how we’d do,” Gardner said. “After working with the girls and being around them, I knew they were talented and super athletic. But I’d also been around 1A kids for the last eight years. I knew our league was solid, but being knew I wasn’t sure where my kids were. I knew we were good and I was confident and excited to see where they’d take us.”
Only three of the Indians’ 14 league matches went to a third game with the narrowest win coming against West Franklin when Osage City dropped the first game 27-25 before winning the next two 25-14, 25-22. Lyndon and Northern Heights each also took a game from the Indians.
All three of those matches came when Osage City’s roster was in a state of flux. A month into the season, Gardner lost both of her setters in an eight-hour span when returning starter Aliks Serna left the team and junior Claire Crawford went down in practice with an ankle injury.
Crawford missed a week and a half with her injury and while she was out senior middle hitter Whitney Carnell was in a car accident and suffered a concussion which knocked her out for a month. Both are back now, but two weeks ago leading hitter Britney Wilkins suffered a severe ankle sprain which will keep her sidelined until sub-state.
“The adversity these girls have overcome really speaks volume about them,” said Gardner, also noting senior Jasmine Stevens has played the entire season with a bulging disk in her back. “I have been blessed this year not only with really good athletes, but really great kids who have bought into what we’re trying to do. They’ve stepped up to any challenge they’ve had and just taken it and gotten stronger and grown, used it to make themselves better.”
At 22-8 overall, Osage City enters Saturday’s league tournament on a roll, having won nine straight matches and 12 of its last 13. Maintaining that momentum will be key as the Indians face a loaded Class 3A sub-state in two weeks, one that contains defending 3A state champion Silver Lake and a St. Marys team which swept the Indians earlier this year.
“They’re tickled and I’m excited for them,” Gardner said about the undefeated league title. “But at the same time, they’re not satisfied. I’ve talked to them a lot about how that since I met them in May, these last three weeks are what we’ve been working toward. We’ve done some great things this year, but we still have some things we want to accomplish and we have to stay hungry and go after it with everything we’ve got.”
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