FHSU volleyball in middle of the pack
Published on -10/26/2012, 10:16 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University volleyball team is 22-9 and 6-6 in the MIAA, the most victories since 2004 and the most conference wins since the Tigers switched leagues seven years ago.
Against MIAA opponents, though, the Tigers have a disparity. It has helped them improve from last year's 17-16 record (5-13 MIAA), but still left the program short of the elite teams.
Fort Hays is tied for sixth with three squads in the 13-team conference. The top eight reach the postseason conference tournament.
However, the Tigers are 2-5 against MIAA teams at or above them in the conference standings and 5-1 versus squads below them.
Last weekend continued that trend.
The Tigers won road matches at Missouri Southern State University (25-23, 25-19, 26-24) and Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University (25-14, 25-16, 19-25, 25-22).
"For the most part, I thought we played very well," fourth-year coach Kurt Kohler said. "We came out a little bit flat against Missouri Southern, and a lot of is the bus ride down and just probably not being totally ready for that team."
Those two teams are a combined 1-23 in conference play.
"We came out on fire and just really took it to SBU the first couple of games, and then let up a little bit and let them get back in it," Kohler said. "They are a decent team."
After what Kohler labeled a "great practice" Monday, FHSU lost 3-0 on the road Tuesday to University of Nebraska-Kearney, ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division II at 24-2.
The Tigers kept the first set close at 25-22, but then lost 25-9, 25-14 in the final two sets. Fort Hays now has lost eight straight to ranked opponents, including four losses this year. FHSU led early on, but multiple problems, especially with passing and errors, caused an unraveling in the final two sets.
"I do think that we need to step up our level of play against everybody," Kohler said. "We have had some success through the first part of our conference season against the teams that are below us in the standings right now."
This weekend, Fort Hays plays host to University of Central Oklahoma (11-12, 6-6 MIAA) and Pittsburg State University (12-10, 3-7 MIAA). The first match is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday with the second one at 2 p.m. Sunday. Fort Hays won 3-1 at UCO on Sept. 14 and 3-0 at Pittsburg State on Sept. 15. Central Oklahoma had won six in row before a 3-1 loss to No. 17-ranked Truman State (Mo.) University.
"Central Oklahoma is on fire right now," Kohler said. "That's going to be an important one for us and we have got to play a whole lot better than what we have been playing the last couple of matches to be able to beat them. Pitt State is another team that is coming on strong."
Kohler has made one personnel change in the last three matches. Freshman Latika Clanton, who played significantly earlier in the year, has taken over at defensive specialist for redshirt freshman Tara Hoekman in the last three matches.
"With Tika, she has been playing a little better," Kohler said. "Her serve-receive, she has been getting balls up to our setter a little better and moving on the court, so Tara has been working on it in practice, and I think that she is going to continue to get better."
Fort Hays hit .028 against Nebraska-Kearney and had rare off nights from junior middle hitter Jenna Ulrich and sophomore middle hitter Kylee Hoagland. Ulrich had four kills and hit .118, while Hoaglanf collected four kills and hit .133. It marked Ulrich's lowest hitting percentage for the season and second-fewest kills.
She leads the team with a .342 hitting percentage and 2.80 kills per set, while Hoagland is hitting .249 with 2.46 kills per set. Kohler believed the passing was "off" versus UNK but said FHSU needs more offense from its outside hitters. Junior outside hitter Madison Schwartz, sophomore outside hitter Sara Hewson and sophomore right side Taylor Mares have been up-and-down offensively this fall.
"Every team right now is just going to set a block up on our middle," Kohler said. "Our other kids have to step up and start doing their job, and we are not getting the production off the outside that we need, or off that right side. We didn't get it the other night against Kearney."