ST. PAUL, Kan. –Chetopa high school and st. Paul high school will be combining squads this season due to Chetopa not having enough players to form a team.
“We really wanted to make sure we didn’t take away volleyball just because we didn’t have enough players,” said Chetopa-St. Paul head volleyball coach Jill Blackledge. “So, the decision came to partner with our sister school St. Paul that way we could keep all our kids in the district and have a district team.”
But, in order to make it work, it requires some sacrifices, like a driving 40 minutes to St. Paul for practice. Chetopa senior Brali Conard even has to leave class early.
“I have to leave my last hour class which is English, which is kind of stressful,” said Conard. “So, I have to do a lot of work on my own like at home and stuff.”
But, Conard said it’s worth it to be able to play her senior year.
Combining teams also means trying to develop a new team chemistry.
St. Paul senior Katie Carter said despite doubts she had early on, they’ve all been able to get on the same page pretty quickly.
“I was really worried at first like this was not going to work out,” said Carter. “Just two people combining, we’re not going to fit like a puzzle piece sort of thing, but no. It’s worked out really well. We have a really good connection.”
Despite being a newly formed team, their expectations for the season are sky high. Chetopa made it to the 1A state championship game last year. Now that they’ve combined forces with St. Paul, Blackledge is confident they can make another run at the title.
“The three players we had made it to the State championship last year and they were not ready to quit, they wanted to keep playing,” said Blackledge. “St. Paul has a ton of girls with a ton of athletic ability and lots of talent and putting all of them together, we’re going to have a winning season.”
Once facing off on opposite sides of the net, these two teams will now be vying for a state title side by side.