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FHSU volleyball splits weekend matches

Published on -10/29/2012, 10:06 AM

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In coach Kurt Kohler's view, the Fort Hays State University volleyball team needed to win both home matches against University of Central Oklahoma and Pittsburg State University on Saturday and Sunday. UCO was tied with the Tigers in the MIAA standings at 6-6, while PSU was 3-7.

Two wins would have likely secured a spot in the eight-team conference postseason tournament. However, the Tigers earned only one victory -- and played nearly the entire weekend without sophomore middle hitter Kylee Hoagland, one of the team's top players.

On Saturday, Fort Hays struggled offensively from the beginning, but managed to win the first set, and then led 9-3 in the second set before Hoagland went down. FHSU eventually lost 21-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-20, 15-13 in a 2 hour, 38 minute match at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

"That was a huge loss, and I told the kids in the locker room, 'I don't know how you can't get up for a game that would almost clinch a spot in the MIAA tournament,' " Kohler said. "It was disappointing."

The Tigers, which had won at Central Oklahoma earlier in the year, lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Bronchos with Saturday's loss.

On Sunday, Fort Hays did bounce back with a 23-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 15-4 win versus Pittsburg State. Hoagland, on crutches after the injury, didn't play Sunday.

Sophomore Ashley Evans, known more for her offense, stepped in Saturday for Hoagland and had five kills, a .083 hitting percentage and 1.5 blocks.

"It was very frustrating, because we are used to our normal flow of things," senior setter Kayla Zoglman said. "When you throw a different player in -- not that they are not capable of doing that spot -- because they filled that spot, it was just the chemistry. Volleyball is a whole lot of chemistry."

On Sunday, sophomore Sam Ledy, known more her defense, played more in the middle and finished with seven kills and a .375 hitting percentage.

FHSU (23-10, 7-7 MIAA) is tied with Central Oklahoma (12-13, 7-7 MIAA) for the seventh and eighth spots in the conference. Fort Hays and UCO each have three conference matches left -- though the Tigers have to have to face three teams in the top six.

"Right now, at the end of the season, I feel like it is more about teamwork, and we just need to work more as a team, instead of trying to do ourselves," junior libero Makenzie Weinman said. "There is a lot of talent out there, but we can't win games with just talent."

Missouri Western State University (13-13, 4-9 MIAA) and Pittsburg State (12-12, 3-9 MIAA) are behind UCO and the Tigers.

"We just didn't have any energy," Kohler said. "From the very first play of the game, it was just so slow and we were hitting soft. We just weren't playing the way that we have been able to win this year, and if we try to play the style of the other team, we are going to lose every time."

The UCO match featured 125 digs from the Bronchos and 119 by the Tigers, the most digs FHSU had recorded in any match in the four-year Kohler era. Fort Hays focused on digging and blocking all week in preparation for facing UCO's Morgan Roy, tied for the MIAA lead in kills per game (3.63).

Roy finished with 14 kills and hit .016. However, the offense struggled.

"We were hitting a ball hard. It's easy to get 125 digs when you are rolling shots and tipping balls," Kohler said. "Even when we are getting a good swing, we end up just sending it softly over to the other side. There were so many times that there was a huge hole in the block and we could have just crushed the ball, but we didn't work hard enough on our transition, so we don't have the approach."

Weinman collected 36 digs, tied for fifth-best in school history since the rally scoring era started in 2001. Weinman, a defensive specialist last year, has had some inconsistencies with playing on the left side, a new role.

"I am finally gelling on that left side," Weinman said. "It's finally clicking. In practice, we are really working on defense and the block. The block was set, so that helps me angle off that block and get my position instead of guessing where they are going to hit that ball, so the blockers did awesome."

However, FHSU hit just .087. No Tiger hit higher than .186. Sophomore right-side hitter Taylor Mares led the team with 13 kills. FHSU significantly improved against Pittsburg State with a .236 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Madison Schwartz collected 15 kills, while freshman defensive specialist Tara Hoekman had 21 digs. It marked the Tigers' second-best hitting percentage in its last seven conference matches.

Now, the Tigers finish up with road matches at Washburn University (25-1, 11-1 MIAA) and Emporia State University (16-8, 6-5 MIAA) and a home match versus University of Central Missouri (20-4, 12-1 MIAA). In Kohler's eyes, there still is work left to qualify.

"At least one more (win) now that we lost this one," Kohler said.

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