Tiger women secure MIAA home game
Published on -3/3/2013, 3:29 PM
By CONOR NICHOLL
Coach Tony Hobson labeled Friday's Senior Night for the Fort Hays State University's five seniors "just perfect."
All five were honored in a pregame ceremony and announced in the starting lineup. The quintet of Kelsie Sorenson, Traci Keyser, Melissa Nelson, Kaiameka Brown and Haley Wolf gave productive minutes in a 91-66 blowout victory against Lincoln (Mo.) University at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Afterward, friends and family surrounded the Tigers outside of the locker room, including a big gathering for Brown, a La Puente, Calif., native by way of Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College.
Brown has rarely had family in Hays, but had more than a dozen relatives present, including her three older brothers, nephews, nieces, cousins, sisters-in-law and aunts.
"It was a really big deal," Brown said. "The last two games, they came down and it just felt good, because they haven't really been able to come to a lot of games."
Fort Hays, receiving votes in the national poll, clinched its second straight 20-win season, and moved to 20-6 overall, 12-6 MIAA. The Tigers remain in the hunt for a NCAA Division II tournament berth and will have a postseason conference tournament first-round home game Tuesday.
FHSU has the program's highest conference winning percentage since it switched leagues before the 2006-07 season. Depending on the outcome of Saturday's contests, Fort Hays could face Lincoln (11-15, 6-12 MIAA) in a rematch. Part of the teams' turnaround the last two years comes from the seniors, especially Sorenson and Keyser, each four-year players.
"Traci and Kelsie are really good leaders," Brown said. "They talk, they tell everyone what to do most of the time. Mel is more of a show you, and you follow her. She is very energetic in practice and always pushing us. They are pretty good seniors."
Fort Hays rarely trailed and led by 32 points with 5 minutes, 55 seconds left in the game. The Tigers shot 49 percent, including 9 of 20 (45 percent) from beyond the arc.
"We usually play pretty good defense, but when we are making shots, it energizes us more to play better defense," Brown said. "We are running up and down the court, and we are feeling good about ourselves when we start hitting shots."
Sophomore center Kate Lehman took advantage inside and finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while Blue Tiger guard Arriana Walker collected 21 points, too.
"I thought we would be able to (open a big lead) if we could establish a post game offensively, because I couldn't see how they would be able to match up in there at all, and they struggled with that," Hobson said.
Prior to the contest, the five seniors had the on-court ceremony. Then, in a rare move, the Tigers introduced seven starters, the five seniors along with Lehman and junior Katelyn Edwards. Nelson, coming off a knee injury, and Wolf, a reserve her entire career, eventually didn't start, but Hobson wanted each senior to receive recognition.
Keyser collected 14 points, five rebounds and three assists, while Sorenson finished with four points and two rebounds. Nelson, in her second game back from the injury, collected 10 points in 13 minutes. Brown finished with six points and three assists. Wolf, long known for putting in more hours than any other Tiger on the practice court, played three minutes. With 3:23 left in the game, Hobson subbed out all five seniors to a nice ovation from a crowd of 2,255.
"It was just really perfect that we could get everybody in, we could get five seniors in, and bring them all out together," Hobson said. "Just some of those times, you can't get that. They all did a good job, they had good games."
As soon as the game restarted after the applause, the seniors -- especially Sorenson and Keyser -- followed their usual habit of cheering on their teammates and calling out advice. It's an attitude and approach the quintet has taken for the last several years.
"They've done a fine job, but just the example they have set for freshmen this is how you act, this is how we act in our program," Hobson said. "If you are not on the floor, you don't pout about it, you don't talk about, 'I should be out there.'
"You cheer on your teammates, and if you have an issue, go talk to the coach about it," he added. "You don't bring your team down."