Jackson County teams set to see tough postseason competition
With less than a month until postseason competition starts, area teams learned their fates last week as regional and sub-state assignments were announced.
Following the classification changes the previous week, that meant there was plenty of shifting for area teams regarding postseason destinations and the competition they will face.
The biggest change occurred with Royal Valley dropping down to Class 3A and, for the volleyball team, that means the road back to the state tournament will go through defending 3A state champion Silver Lake.
Currently ranked first in Class 3A by the Kansas Volleyball Association, the Eagles will likely be the Panthers’ biggest challenge in the sub-state tournament, which will be hosted at Silver Lake. The top-ranked team bested Royal Valley 25-19 and 25-9 over the weekend in its home tournament.
Outside of that, the Panthers could also face stiff competition from a Perry-Lecompton team RV just split with, as well as a scrappy Rossville squad. The rest of the field in the Silver Lake sub-state includes Pleasant Ridge, Mission Valley, Oskaloosa and St. Marys.
Holton will get the benefit of hosting its own class 4A-DII sub-state tournament, but the Wildcats aren’t without their own thorn created by classification changes, as rival Topeka Hayden has dropped from Division I to Division II in Class 4A this season and will be one of the teams HHS hosts for sub-state competition.
After holding the top spot in the KVA rankings in Class 4A-DI, Hayden immediately slotted in as the number one team after dropping down to Class 4A-DII, a position Holton once held before falling to 10th in the most recent rankings.
In addition to the challenge Hayden presents, Holton will also have to be ready for another potential match against league foe Jeff West. The Wildcats swept the Tigers in league competition, but recently dropped a match in tournament play. Rounding out the sub-state field will be Bishop Ward (Kansas City).
For Jackson Heights, sub-state competition in Class 2A will be pretty familiar for the Cobras, as the team will see several Northeast Kansas League foes in the postseason tournament.
Current league leader (and the fifth-ranked team in Class 2A) Valley Falls could be the team to beat, but JCN is hot on their heels and could present a similar challenge if the Cobras face them in sub-state action.
Wabaunsee is also a team to watch out for, as the Chargers themselves were ranked earlier in the season and are coming off a runner-up finish at the 2A state tournament last year. The rest of the field will include Valley Heights, Horton, McLouth and Troy.
All sub-state tournaments will be played on Saturday, Oct. 24. Holton and Royal Valley will start competition at 2 p.m., while Jackson Heights’ sub-state will begin at 1 p.m.
Regarding cross country regionals, things don’t get any easier for the Jackson County teams, especially with Holton heading southeast for Class 4A postseason competition to be hosted by perennial state contender Baldwin.
Both Bulldog teams are currently first in the Kansas Cross Country Coaches Association rankings, while the De Soto boys and girls are also currently ranked (5th and 6th, respectively) and will be competing in the Baldwin regional as well. Other ranked teams in the field include the Hayden boys, Tonganoxie girls and Atchison girls, who are all ranked sixth.
Other teams competing in the Baldwin regional include Basehor-Linwood, Eudora, Bishop Ward, KC Piper, KC Sumner, Jeff West, Santa Fe Trail, Bishop Miege and Spring Hill.
Change will continue for the Royal Valley cross country runners, who have been running that same gauntlet with Holton for the last several years.
It seems the Panthers may be trading in one gauntlet for another, though, as they will see plenty of strong teams in the Class 3A regional meet hosted by Riley County.
The Falcon boys, as well as the Beloit Trojans, both qualified for the state meet as a team last season, while Riley County is also currently ranked fourth in Class 3A.
Competition will be even tougher on the girls side. Royal Valley will see league foe and 2014 state runner-up Hiawatha at the regional, as well as sixth-ranked (and fourth-place finisher in 2015) ACCHS, which shares that ranking with the host team.
Other teams that will compete at the Riley County regional include Council Grove, Marysville, Minneapolis, Phillipsburg, Rossville, Sabetha, Nemaha Central, Silver Lake, St. Marys and Riverside.
Things won’t change too much for Jackson Heights, though the Cobras will have to make the longest trip for regional competition, heading all the way to Belleville (Republic County).
In that Class 2A regional, Bennington will pose a challenge in both races as each is currently ranked, while host Republic County has also been distinguished as one of the top teams on the boys side in Class 2A.
Rounding at the field in Belleville will be Valley Heights, Canton-Galva, Herrington, Hillsboro, Horton, McLouth, Troy, Valley Falls, Wabaunsee, Washington County and JCN.
Regional cross country competition will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24. Start times for county teams are 10 a.m. for Holton (Baldwin), 11 a.m. for Royal Valley (Leonardville) and 11:30 a.m. for Jackson Heights (Belleville).
The first team to get into regional competition will actually be the Holton girls golf team, which will have no cakewalk itself.
Holton will head to Meriden for postseason competition and likely see tough challenges overall from defending state runner-up Hayden and Jeff West. Other teams the Wildcats will compete against include Basehor-Linwood, Santa Fe Trail, Clay Center, De Soto, KC Piper, Bishop Miege and Spring Hill.
Postseason golf starts next Tuesday, Oct. 13 and the meet in Meriden will begin at 8:30 a.m.