FHSU volleyball at home this weekend
Published on -9/28/2012, 9:13 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University volleyball team is enjoying a strong season at 12-5 overall, 2-2 MIAA, but could take another climb in the tough conference this weekend. FHSU's two conference losses came against University of Nebraska-Kearney, ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II, and Northwest Missouri State University. Those two teams are a combined 20-4 and 7-0 MIAA.
Fort Hays' two league victories came versus University of Central Oklahoma and Pittsburg State University, teams that combine for a 14-16 mark, 3-9 MIAA. Tonight, the Tigers play host to No. 3-ranked Washburn University (13-0, 4-0 MIAA). On Saturday, FHSU plays Emporia State University (9-4, 3-1 MIAA). Today's match starts at 6 p.m., with the Saturday match at 3 p.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Fort Hays hasn't defeated Washburn or Emporia State since 2004. The Tigers have dropped 12 straight to Washburn and 13 in a row to Emporia.
Washburn coach Chris Herron enters the match with a 399-84 career record. After Friday's match, Washburn will travel to Kearney on Saturday for a highly anticipated No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup.
The Lady Blues, ranked in 113 straight polls, have rarely had a test this season, though Truman State (Mo.) University did take them to five sets. Fort Hays has given Washburn some competitive matches in recent years, including a 3-1 defeat in the squad's last matchup.
"I am assuming that Truman is good, because I know what Washburn has got," fourth-year Tiger coach Kurt Kohler said. "That actually kind of shocked me that is the one team that has challenged them this year. But I think Chris is loaded, and he does a great job getting his kids to play hard and not letting a lot of balls hit the floor."
Last week, Fort Hays went 4-0 at the Johnson and Wales tournament with victories against NAIA teams, including a pair against Bethany and Southwestern College. In the offseason, Fort Hays had an opening last weekend and Kohler looked for a Division II tournament, but couldn't find an opening.
"I think that we played really good," sophomore right-side hitter Taylor Mares said. "We knew that coming into the weekend that we should beat all these teams. I think our mentality was, let's win on our terms. Instead of going on and just kind of goofing off. We kind of went in focused."
Fort Hays won all four matches by 3-0 margins. Junior outside hitter Madison Schwartz, sidelined by sickness earlier this fall, has rebounded and led the team with 26 kills and a .550 hitting percentage. As well, Schwartz's defense has improved and she is now playing all six rotations. Mares collected 23 kills and a .500 hitting percentage.
"Our kids did play pretty well this weekend," Kohler said. "It's tough when you are going up against competition that you expect to win against. I think that expectation a lot of times allows that other team to bring a lot more energy and they all would love to beat a Division II school."