No. 1 UNK blasts FHSU
Published on -9/12/2012, 10:16 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University volleyball coach Kurt Kohler told his team it had a rare opportunity Tuesday against University of Nebraska-Kearney, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II.
"Experience is exciting," junior middle hitter Jenna Ulrich said. "It's cool to be able to say that we are playing them."
However, there's a difference between stepping on the floor versus the country's top squad -- and actually competing with them.
"There's a big line there," Ulrich said. "So, that's a different story."
The Tigers had trouble with the latter and suffered a blowout against their rivals in a 3-0 loss at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
FHSU struggled with errors, passing and setting all night and lost the three matches by scores of 25-7, 25-12 and 25-16.
Fort Hays, without junior outside hitter Madison Schwartz because of health reasons, had 22 errors in three sets.
The Tigers hit .000 for the match in front of 1,011 fans, the biggest volleyball crowd at GMC since Fort Hays joined the MIAA seven years ago.
"Most of the errors that we made were unforced errors that we could have taken care of," Kohler said. "Kearney is a great team, but I felt like we really beat ourselves tonight, and we didn't even put ourselves in a position to compete with them. It would have been nice to cut back on a lot of the mental errors and the unforced mistakes that we made to see how good we are compared to them."
The matchup marked the first time UNK and Fort Hays played each other in Hays since 2007 and was the conference opener for both teams in the new-look MIAA. The Lopers were one of four teams to join the league in all sports this year. UNK improved to 8-0, 1-0 MIAA, while Fort Hays dropped to 6-4, 0-1 MIAA.
"The environment was awesome," sophomore outside hitter Sara Hewson said. "If we can keep this up through the season, I know we all feed off that energy. It wasn't the showing that we wanted, but if we stick together, fans, come together as a team, then we can do some great things."
Schwartz, a two-time all-MIAA honorable mention selection, had started slowly this season with 1.71 kills per set and a .051 hitting percentage. Kohler was uncertain how much time she would miss.
"It changed things a lot," Hewson said. "She is a big contributor with her play and her charisma. She also brings a ton of charisma to the court."
True freshman Mallory Flagor stepped in for Schwartz and struggled with one kill and a minus-.273 hitting percentage. Ulrich led the team with six kills and a .188 hitting percentage. She was the lone Tiger to hit more than .057.
Senior setter Kayla Zoglman had a tough night with just 18 assists, well below her season average of 8.53 assists per set.
"We have been making some mistakes in passing and setting and those are two areas that we really need to work on," Kohler said. "We did have a couple of rough matches over the weekend where we weren't passing very well or we weren't setting very well, and we need to make that change.
"I think our hitters are coming along well," he added. "They are starting to get more aggressive, but we have got to be able to get them the ball that they need to take an effective swing and we are just not doing it right now."
In the first set, UNK hit .609 with zero errors, while Fort Hays tallied a minus-.037 hitting percentage.
"I was impressed with a lot of their hitters," Kohler said. "They run a very simple offense and they do it incredibly well. They are a fun team to play. I was excited to get an opportunity to play them."
In the second set, FHSU trailed 8-6 early, but then the Lopers went on an 8-0 run. Three times in the first four points of the run, Fort Hays either had a poor set or pass.
"It always starts with the pass, and it was just our own attitudes, I think," Hewson said.
In the third set, Fort Hays again trailed just 7-5, but back-to-back Tiger errors opened an 11-5 UNK run. Ariel Krolikowski led the Lopers with 15 kills. As a team, UNK hit .375.
"They do function well together, they are a solid team, extremely solid," Ulrich said. "They are great together, but definitely not unbeatable, and I think that our team, (along) with the fans, would agree that we killed ourselves."
Fort Hays will play at University of Central Oklahoma on Friday and Pittsburg State University on Saturday.