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FHSU volleyball picks up pair of wins

Published on -10/17/2012, 10:41 AM

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Fort Hays State University redshirt sophomore middle hitter Samantha Ledy started two years ago for a young Tiger volleyball team that finished 7-25 and 0-20 in the MIAA. Ledy averaged 1.27 kills per set and led the team with 0.62 blocks per set. She played in front of freshman middle hitter Jenna Ulrich.

The team also included a backup defensive specialist (Makenzie Weinman) and a freshman outside hitter (Madison Schwartz) who collected all-MIAA honorable mention honors. Then Ledy left the team for a year.

"I kind of lost the love of the game," she said.

Mallory Flagor watched her older sisters, including Sara Nuss (Schinstock), one of the Tigers' all-time leading blockers and the former Hays High School coach, play college volleyball.

"I just wanted to follow in her footsteps," Flagor, a freshman outside hitter/right side hitter from Hoisington, said.

On Tuesday, Ledy and Flagor helped the Tigers accomplish a feat for the first time in eight years. Fort Hays defeated York (Neb.) College, a NAIA school, in two solid 3-0 matches at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The first match, FHSU played its backups versus York's junior varsity and won 25-13, 25-17 and 25-11.

In the second match, Fort Hays started its normal lineup, but still gave nearly its entire roster playing time and collected a 25-7, 25-18, 25-10 victory.

The Tigers improved to 20-8, while York College dropped to 8-16.

Fort Hays won 20 matches for the first time since 2004 and finished the fall 16-3 in non-conference action. In addition, FHSU played in front of another big crowd -- 654 fans -- and helped raise money for "Dig Pink" and breast cancer awareness. The crowd was especially vocal at 7-5 in the third set of the second match when sophomore outside hitter Sara Hewson ran all the way to the bleachers and saved a ball. Hewson finished with six kills, six digs, a .316 hitting percentage in the second victory.

"Sara was in a slump for awhile and I think she is starting to come out of it and starting to play like the Sara Hewson we knew from last year," Kohler said. " ... To go hustle after that ball just shows what type of player and what type of person she is."

Players and fans wore pink and the teams played with a pink and white ball. Afterward, the Tigers hosted a silent auction and signed autographs.

"It was great to get to play for breast cancer and breast cancer awareness in order to be able to raise this much money and be a part of it," Ledy said.

After she took last season off, Ledy returned to the Tigers. Weinman is now the starting libero and Ulrich is one of the MIAA's top players. Schwartz is in her third season as a starter.

"It was awesome to watch them grow the year that I was gone," Ledy said. "I came back and you really see how much they grew and it was great to see them grow, because they are my friends, and I love to see them do good things, great to see them improve."

Sophomore middle hitter Kylee Hoagland is an all-conference caliber player. Ledy is now a backup.

"I love the game, so I love getting to play," Ledy said. "Every little second that I get to play is great. It just means a lot to get to be able to play again. I love giving them competition in practice and the fact that I can make them better is a plus for me, and I am really just honestly glad to be back and playing again. No complaints."

Ledy had played in 14 sets before Tuesday and recorded 1.71 kills and a .264 hitting percentage. In the first match, she led the Tigers with 10 kills and a .412 hitting percentage. In the second match, she entered late, but finished with three kills and zero errors in five attempts. Fourth-year coach Kurt Kohler has played Ledy some in practice at right side and outside hitter, but Ledy still needs to learn at those spots.

"Sam is the type of kid that comes in and works hard every day whether she is playing or not," Kohler said. "We would love to be able to find a spot for Sam on the floor just because she works so hard, but right now, she is in a position where she is backing up two very good middles."

Flagor is the only freshman who has seen significant playing time for the veteran Tigers.

Many western Kansas players, including Weinman and Lydia Karnopp, a former Oberlin graduate, have seen little playing time early in their careers before starting. Karnopp eventually collected all-MIAA honors.

Flagor, who has played in 23 matches, finished with four kills in as many attempts in the first match. In the second one, she collected two kills and zero errors in eight attempts with six digs. As usual, her sister Sara was in the stands watching.

"Athletically, she reminds me a lot of Lydia Karnopp," Kohler said of Flagor. "But I think her knowledge of the game is a little bit higher. She has been in a position where she has been able to step in on the right side when we have needed to or be an outside hitter."

Hewson, Ledy and Flagor's efficient hitting helped Fort Hays finish with just six attack errors in the second victory. Last weekend, FHSU had 44 errors collectively in two 3-0 home conference losses. This weekend, Fort Hays (4-5 MIAA) travels to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University (8-16, 1-9 MIAA) and Missouri Southern State University (0-21, 0-9 MIAA) on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

"Coming out of this last weekend, I just felt like we really needed to pick the intensity up and play a smarter game, and that's what I saw with everybody that was out there," Kohler said.

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