The decibel level inside the raucous and rocking Grain Valley High School gymnasium Thursday night nearly equaled that of Arrowhead Stadium during a Chiefs win.
Coach Keri Peterson’s Eagles volleyball team was facing Missouri River Valley Conference West rival Pleasant Hill, and needed a victory to claim a share of first place with the Chicks.
They didn’t get that victory – but they came close, earning the respect of the state-ranked Chicks.
The Chicks, who have reached the final four the past two seasons and finished as the state runner-up last season, claimed a 25-20, 21-25, 25-21 victory over a group of 15-6-2, 6-2 Eagles who left the locker room holding their heads high.
“This was an amazing night,” said Kelsey Gauldin, a senior middle hitter who was all over the court for the Eagles. “We played so much better against them tonight than we did last time – when they beat us in two sets.
“I wouldn’t trade playing – and competing – with this group of girls for anything in the world. We were focused and we came close to accomplishing something very special tonight. We gave it 100 percent, and that’s all you can ask from yourself or your teammates. This is how you want to be playing late in the season and we hope to be playing even better in the playoffs.”
Asya Harris, who led the Eagles with 10 kills, said facing Pleasant Hill’s front line of 6-foot-2, 6-1 and 5-10 posed no intimidation.
“I don’t look at an opponent and think size,” said Harris, who stands 5-9, “I look at an opponent and try to figure out how I can beat their blocks. What I have to do to get a kill down – what I can do to help my team.
“We came close, really close, to getting it done tonight. We were so much better than last time and hopefully we can be even better if we play them again.”
The Chicks claimed that first-set win by dominating play on the front row.
Peterson came up with some adjustments that paid huge dividends in set No. 2.
“We made some adjustments, adjusted out serve and really played well in the second set,” Peterson said. “It was a great environment for volleyball, a great crowd and our girls played really well.”
The Eagles trailed 13-7 in the second set when Sydney Slaven served five points in a row.
That’s when the crowd’s decibel level began to roar.
Gauldin, paying no attention to bodily harm, later threw herself in the middle of the court to save a would-be kill and Karly Tharp responded with a kill for the Eagles that gave Grain Valley a 20-16 advantage.
Sydney Wiedenmann then slammed the final kill to set off a wild celebration on the Eagles’ side of the stands.
“It was so thrilling to get that kill,” Wiedenmann said, “and even though we didn’t win, we did a lot of good things tonight. I am proud to be on this team.”
Wiedenmann and Tharp finished with nine kills each.