By CONOR NICHOLL
Last season, Goodland had Kansas’ biggest turnaround among any squad that finished in the final four. Goodland went 34-10 and took fourth in Class 3A. Goodland had 34 combined wins in the previous four seasons.
Goodland enjoyed three first team all-league GWAC selections: Talexa Weeter, Olivia Lehman and Emma Lehman. All three returned for a loaded Cowgirl squad. Goodland opened ninth in the preseason in Class 3A in the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association rankings.
The Cowgirls have enjoyed another dominant season, including the GWAC title last weekend. Goodland was ranked sixth in the most current 3A rankings. Goodland enters Class 3A sub-state this weekend with a 34-3 mark. The Cowgirls are the No. 1 seed in the Lakin sub-state. Play is Saturday.
No. 2 Holcomb stands at 34-5, and third-seeded Scott City is 28-9. Lakin is the fourth seed, also at 28-9. Goodland enters sub-state on a 14-match winning streak. Overall, Goodland has won 73 of a possible 83 sets.
Goodland is part of a deep group of 3A teams that includes defending 2A champion Olathe Heritage Christian Academy (32-2), Hiawatha (36-3, looking for its best season since the ‘80s), Nemaha Central (33-6), Cheney (34-2), Eureka (32-1), Smoky Valley (34-3) and Riverton (35-3). Plus, the Russell sub-state features Beloit (29-7), Thomas More Prep-Marian (26-10), and Phillipsburg (24-12). Nickerson (28-10) hosts a sub-state that includes Cheney.
Goodland lost in three sets to Holcomb on Sept. 30 before a two-set victory in the GWAC tournament. As well, the Cowgirls fell in three sets to Scott City on Sept. 13. Goodland beat Scott City on Oct. 7 and again in the league tournament. Goodland has not lost since a two-set defeat to Hutchinson on Oct. 2. Hutchinson is currently ranked eighth in 6A at 29-5.
This year, Goodland has three seniors: defensive specialist Olivia Bassett, right side Emma Lehman and Abbi Rickard. The Lehmans, both 5-11, are the team captains. Goodland again has plenty of height. Junior middle blocker/right side Lindsey Cure is 6-foot, and Weeter is 6-foot on the outside.
Weeter paces with 299 kills, and 5-foot-8 sophomore Jaxi Mitchek has 222 kills. Cure has 213 and Emma Lehman has delivered 166. Goodland is very consistent: the top-five hitters all attack between .208 and .244.
Five players – Weeter, Cure, the Lehmans and Mitchek – have between 35 and 61 aces. Olivia Lehman paces the team. Goodland averages a kill on 39.1 percent of swings, hits .216 and has aces 13.7 percent of the time. Goodland is an excellent blocking team (2.2 per set), including 95 from Cure, and 54 by junior Mya Nemechek.
From 2020, Goodland had key graduation losses with setting and on the back line. Goodland graduated 61 percent of its digs.
Mitchek paces with 250 digs. Sophomore Brooklan Ivans has 176 digs, and sophomore Haley Biermann has 172. Olivia Lehman has stepped up with 786 assists. Last season, Lehman ran a 6-2 and paced the offense with 542 assists.
Goodland has returned 89 percent of serves with the three sophomores as the primary serve receive. Ivans has 329 receptions, and Biermann and Mitchek have 305 apiece.
Goodland has made significant gains across the board compared to 2020, a season that yielded kills on 32.7 percent of swings and a .134 attack percentage. Goodland had aces on 12.9 percent of serves. Cure led with 95 blocks last season.