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Mares fills in for Tiger volleyball

Published on -10/8/2012, 10:26 AM

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By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University volleyball coach Kurt Kohler sees several roles for the right-side hitter.

"Really within the MIAA, they have to be a good blocker," Kohler said. "We have to have defense, because we are such an outside hitter dominated conference. We have got to have a good block set up over there.

"The other thing, too, in our offense, we like to run quick sets to that right side antenna, so we've got to have a good athlete that can make an adjustment on possibly a poor set, has the quickness to get off the net after a block and to get into transition and hit a good ball," he added.

Sophomore Taylor Mares, formerly a middle hitter who missed most of last season with an injury, has filled those roles for the Tigers, especially offensively. Mares played in 20 sets with a .138 hitting percentage in 2011 but dislocated her kneecap and never played between Sept. 6 and Oct. 18.

Mares trained on the right side some during spring season and knew she could play there this fall. She beat out senior Megan Glandon, who often played right side last fall, and true freshman Mallory Flagor.

"I am so excited to be out there on the court," Mares said. "That is one of my big goals from last year to this year was to try to get out there and play games."

Mares delivered another solid weekend at the Southwest Baptist University Crossover tournament. Fort Hays won all four non-conference matches in straight sets against Arkansas-Monticello, Southern Arkansas, Northwestern Oklahoma State and Henderson State.

Individual statistics weren't available for the final two matches, but Mares hit .400 with five kills in the first match and provided another option for junior middle hitter Jenna Ulrich (12 kills, .478 hitting percentage) and sophomore Kylee Hoagland (eight kills, .444 hitting percentage).

In the second match, Mares collected seven kills and hit .176. Hoagland led with eight kills and a .385 percentage. Fort Hays, 17-6 and 3-3 in the MIAA, has three home matches this week, starting with a Tuesday contest against Missouri Western State University. Game time is 7 p.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

"The whole team in general is so close, and we get along so well, and I think that helps us out on the court. We have so much chemistry out there," Mares said. "... We can be so good, and I think that if we just keep working, we are going to get there."

On Sept. 29, the Tigers delivered one of their biggest victories of the Kohler era with a 3-1 home win against Emporia State University. Ulrich and Hoagland had terrific matches and Mares and junior outside hitter Madison Schwartz provided a solid supporting role. Mares had 14 kills and hit .222 with 1.5 blocks, while Schwartz collected 10 kills, 10 digs and 1.5 blocks.

"Emporia would hit a couple runs, one-two-three point runs," Ulrich said. "You can just kind of feel it in the room, like 'OK, we need a get a point, get a run on our side,' and they would, they have that tip or that line hit, and it totally just eases up and gets us right back into motion."

Throughout the season, Mares has continually helped Ulrich and Hoagland offensively and with blocking. While the Tigers haven't received consistent offense from the outside hitters, Mares has a .254 hitting percentage and 2.39 kills per set. Ulrich leads the team with a .347 hitting percentage and 2.75 kills per set, while Hoagland is at 2.54 and .253.

"She is a nice block over there, she hits the ball hard off of one foot and makes some smart choices, too," Kohler said. "I think that's really what we needed on that right side, was somebody who doesn't hurt us, and Taylor has really been somebody who hasn't hurt us, and she has actually helped us a lot score points. It's been fun to see what she can do. She has got a great attitude. She is always in a good mood."

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