In a 3-1 (24-26, 28-26, 25-12, 25-22) win over the Hesston Larks, the Labette Cardinals volleyball team won its first conference match since 2018 and first win of any kind this season on Saturday afternoon.

“It feels amazing,” Labette sophomore libero Tessa Newman said. “I want to keep proving people wrong. Last year was hard coming in as a freshman and not winning that much. But I took that as a challenge. I know we have what it takes. People don’t see that. It was sad not having a fall season, but I’m still glad we have a season. We still have something to prove.” 

It was a stagnant start for Labette, which dropped the first set 26-24 to Hesston. The Cardinals won the second set 28-26 but needed a comeback late despite holding a five point lead early.

“We started out really slow,” Labette head coach Haley Miller said. “We weren’t swinging. We weren’t coming out and being aggressive. We were putting the ball where they weren’t but didn’t have the high-impact kills to push ourselves forward.” 

The tide turned for good in the third set as the Cardinals blasted the Larks 25-12. That momentum carried over to the match-clinching fourth set.

“We were firing on all cylinders,” Miller said. “Our passes were where they needed to be. Our setters were making smart sets to hitters that were hot. And our hitters were putting the ball in deep corners and the donut. We were running speed consistently.” 

Newman posted a career high in digs with 42. Her previous career high was 33.

“She just worked her ass off in the backcourt,” Miller said. “She was getting touches and digs that kept us in the game. Her serve-receive kept us in system. Even with her three assists, she’s just being smart and putting the ball to the outside where hitters can put the ball away.” 

Newman cited the Cardinals defense as the engine on Saturday afternoon.

“We had some great digs,” Newman said. “That’s what keeps us in games, our defense. Our hitters placed the ball smart and it just feels great to get a win.” 

Freshman Kaela Wilkerson led the Cardinals with 15 kills in the match while committing nine errors on 42 swings.

“She stepped up and played really well,” Miller said. “She came back from our last few games, we all did. Everything seemed to click for everybody. Kaela gave us those impact kills that got our momentum going at opportune times.” 

Jasmine Putman and Emma Lincoln added 12 and 10 kills respectively.

Maci Bohannon led Labette with 29 assists while Katie Bitner added 24.

The Cardinals get back into action on Monday with a pair of matches at Neosho County barring any weather postponements.

“I’m hoping we don’t get all this snow and we can go play on Monday,” Miller said. “We’ll keep coming in, focusing on us, fixing what we need to and moving forward.” 

Labette is now 1-5 on the season. Miller added that she feels a shift in narrative coming for her program.

“I think this is just the beginning for us,” Miller said. “We needed this win to change the course. I think we’re going to peak in the midseason. When we meet up with Allen, Cloud and some other teams again, we’re going to pull off some more wins.” 

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