Jeremy Gaston
| Sports Editor

SALINA—It wasn’t a perfect season, or even a perfect tournament, but it had a perfect ending.

The Osage City Lady Indians capped a 42-3 season with a win in the finals of the Class 3A Volleyball Tournament Saturday evening in Salina, bringing home the school’s and the city’s first volleyball title, ever.

“It was awesome,” said Osage City senior Deidra Jones. “We expected it, but it’s also unexpected. We all wanted it.”

The Lady Indians’ path was littered with challenges. After a big win to close out a tough sub-state, Osage City looked toward a normal week of practice to prepare for state.

That didn’t happen.

“My initial thought was that I was going to be here all week for practice, and that it was going to be a fun and exciting week,” said Osage City Head Coach Tara Durkin.

“It turned out to be a fun and exciting week in a very different way for me.”

Durkin went into the hospital Monday, giving birth to a daughter on Tuesday.

“Not being with the girls was rough,” Durkin said. “Once we had the baby, I was like, ‘Lets get out of here.’”

However, Durkin and her newborn, Malia Elise, weren’t released from the hospital until Friday afternoon.

“There were lots of mixed emotions for me, personally,” Durkin said. “Not being able to go to practice Thursday was very hard for me. That was rough. And not being there Friday was horrible, I never thought twice about not going Saturday.”

Meanwhile, the Lady Indians were battling through pool play in Salina under the direction of assistant coaches Amie Lohmeyer and Dennis Fort. Osage City got off to a slow start against Cherokee-Southeast, but dispatched the Lancers

25-23, 25-14. Hillsboro went more easily in a 25-18, 25-14 win.

Durkin got updates as she waited to be released from the hospital.

“Hearing they won and getting texts from the fans in the crowd was actually pretty exciting,” she said. “I just sat there holding my phone and waiting for updates.”

The girls were already 2-0 in pool play and headed to bracket play by the time their coach was released. They had one more challenge Friday, a rematch with Atchison County, one of two teams to beat the Lady Indians this season.

“We were on our way when they were playing,” Durkin said. “I wanted the girls to beat them so bad.”

The Atchison County Lady Tigers ended Osage City’s pool play with a loss, beating the Lady Indians 25-17, 25-21.

“We still made it to the finals,” Durkin said. “Whether you’re first or second out of your pool obviously does not matter. You play well in the (semifinals) and win then you’re in the championship.”

Durkin rejoined the Lady Indians as they paved the path to the finals with a 25-18, 25-20 win against top seeded Phillipsburg in their semifinal Saturday morning, handing the Lady Panthers their second loss of the season.

“That was awesome,” Durkin said. “We totally shocked Phillipsburg.”

Whether it was having their head coach back, or just a renewed attitude, the Lady Indians walked into Bicentennial Center ready to play.

“Nobody was as ready as we were,” said senior Kylie Lieber.

Osage City held a steady lead as they took the first game 25-20, but struggled in the second.

“There was one time during a time out,” Durkin said. “I told the girls to get rid of the face, and it was there. They whipped it off, it was gone, and I never saw it again.”

The girls trailed 14-7, and were down 19-11 during the second time out.

“I told them if they want it, it can be done,” Durkin said.

Osage City came out swinging with a 14-4 run to win the second set 25-23, taking their first win from the Lady Tigers, along with the match, the tournament and the state title.

“We owed them a loss,” said senior Carly Spicer.

The match ended with each team’s top hitter on the back row – Spicer and Atchison County’s Korie Thompson. The Lady Indians, however, relied heavily on the Kate and Leah Garland at the net.

“That was one of our goals, to win a match with the Garland girls up front,” Durkin said. “We got a huge block that sent us into orbit and them the opposite way. It just turned it around.”

Leah Garland led the Lady Indians with 42 for 43 serving, with 4 aces and 20 kills; Kate Garland was 49 for 54 serving with 7 acres and 16 kills; Spicer was 26 for 27 serving with 56 kills; Taylor Kimball was 30 for 32 serving with 92 assists; Keely Giesy was 24 for 26 serving with 38 digs; and Jones was 21 for 22 serving.

Half of the starting six players – Garland, Spicer and Kimball – were named to the state tournament team.

“I think our whole team deserved to be on there,” Spicer said. “It was a team effort, it wasn’t just us that contributed.”

For the girls, it really was a group effort, culminating years of playing together in school as well as club teams in several sports.

“We’ve really been working up to this since we were 10,” Spicer said.

The girls play well together, win together and celebrate together.

“The biggest comment I’ve gotten this season is that our team is so fun to watch,” Durkin said. “Every time we scored, we had to hold Deidra and whoever was on the bench to keep them off the court. We got in trouble a few times.”

But who said having too much fun is a bad thing?

“I think that’s what helped us,” Durkin said. “The girls just never got down.”

The celebration continued on the bus ride home, and was revived again as the team passed the store windows and signs as they arrived in town.

“I think the most fun part was coming home,” Jones said. “Seeing the town and how much support we had.”

“You don’t realize what an impact you make on people,” Durkin said. “You don’t realize what an impact you make when you do well. People will remember.”

The girls understood the “2010 3A State Volleyball Champions” sign had already been ordered.

The win at state wraps up the high school volleyball careers of seven of the eight varsity members of Osage City’s team, seniors Carly Spicer, Keely Giesy, Kylie Lieber, Taylor Kimball, Leah Garland, Deidra Jones and Lauren Poertner.

“This, by far, has been the most unique group of seniors,” Durkin said. “There are seven of them - I have never had that many. These girls have worked very hard for what they have accomplished. From making breakfast burritos to raise money to go to KU camp, attending weights over the summer, to playing club volleyball. For some of them, volleyball is not their most favorite sport, but I know that it ranks high on their list. For this reason each one embraced the fact that if they worked together, they could accomplish anything - and that is exactly what they did.

“Never did this group complain and they all accepted their roles on the floor and worked to improve each day. The girls accepted their roles and knew that if they accepted them, improved themselves in that role, then they would be a great team. They have demonstrated what can be done through hard work, dedication, and determination, so that future teams can learn from.”

The Lady Indians look forward to continued greatness as they close this chapter and move on to the next.

“It was a good way to end the volleyball season, but we still have a couple more seasons to go,” Garland said.