A thrilling rivalry match between Parsons and Labette County capped off the season-opening volleyball quad on Thursday at Parsons High School.

Both teams opened with losses to Independence and Pittsburg — widely considered the top two teams in the league — before closing out the night with the rivalry showdown. Parsons, a program undergoing a massive rebuild under first-year head coach Brooke Hopper, was the first team to 20 points in both sets before Labette County found the momentum to complete a comeback. 

In the end, the Grizzlies won its final match against the Vikings 2-0 (25-21, 25-23).

“I think our adrenaline was so down,” Labette County head coach Heather Wilson said. “We battled and came to play against Pittsburg and Independence. We played really hard, so we let down a little bit. We always are tight against Parsons, it’s that rivalry. That, coupled with our adrenaline, it was tough.” 

Anna Dean led Labette County with eight kills in the win over Parsons, while Sydnie Stice added five. Stice also registered two blocks.

Wilson attributed the slow start against Parsons to her own team’s youth.

“We have one weak rotation and we can get trapped in it sometimes,” Wilson said. “But we got more determined as the sets went on. Eventually, they had to make a decision to be mentally tough when it counted.” 

In the season-opening match against Independence, a team ranked No. 6 in 4A by the Kansas Volleyball Association, the Bulldogs swept the Grizzlies 2-0 (25-22, 25-18).

Stice paced Labette County with eight kills while Anna Dean added five.

“I’m super pleased with our team,” Wilson said. “We wanted to go to battle with Independence, and I felt like we dug exceptionally well against them. We didn’t let many balls hit the floor. Indy capitalized on some of our errors, which is our youth coming out. But I have nothing negative to say about that match.” 

Labette County then dropped its second match to Pittsburg 2-0 (25-17, 25-13). Dean led the Grizzlies with eight kills while Stice again had five.

After the three matches, Wilson praised Stice’s ability to put the ball down offensively.

“She had the Midas touch,” Wilson said. “Whatever we put up for her, she put down. Her kill percentage was massively high. Against Parsons, she got a little tired. But she showed out to me as our best player tonight.” 

As for Parsons, the Vikings were swept by Independence 2-0 (25-7, 25-4) and Pittsburg 2-0 (25-12, 25-7).

“I can’t make the girls taller or have more experience going into those matches,” Hopper said. “We worked a lot on defense and playing smart. Those are the things it’ll take to hang with teams like that. It takes smarts and good defense.” 

While the Vikings suffered two lopsided losses to start its night, Hopper said she anticipated the back-and-forth showdown with Parsons’ archrival.

“That game went exactly how I thought it would go,” Hopper said. “We got up early, but we weren’t able to finish. That comes with experience. We have to find a way to push through those last five points. Volleyball is a game of momentum, so we have to find a way to get that at the end.

“I felt like our girls came out after two tough losses and bring good energy. I’m walking out of here proud of my girls tonight.” 

Stats were unavailable for Parsons.

“Each player had their moments,” Hopper said. “We seem to play better when they’re not overthinking. So we’re going back to practice and working on their footwork and seeing the whole court.” 

Parsons gets a week off before heading to Erie for a triangular along with Jayhawk-Linn on Sept. 12.

As for Labette County, the Grizzlies face Coffeyville in a dual on Sept. 12 for its next match.

“We’re working on not digging a hole,” Wilson said. “We can’t let five points go without shutting things down. We need to be tougher earlier to not let things get away from us.” 

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