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Fort Hays volleyball beats Emporia, falls to Washburn

Published on -9/30/2012, 7:49 PM

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Fort Hays State University volleyball coach Kurt Kohler looked at the stat sheet after the first three sets of the Tigers' match against Emporia State University. Kohler noticed junior middle hitter Jenna Ulrich carried a .684 hitting percentage with 13 kills against zero errors. Kohler circled the numbers and handed the paper to senior setter Kayla Zoglman.

"You know what you've got to do," Kohler said.

In the fourth set, Zoglman continually set to Ulrich and sophomore middle hitter Kylee Hoagland, especially early. Ulrich and Hoagland, returning all-MIAA honorable mention players, combined for 10 kills in the set and helped the Tigers deliver a 3-1 win Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Fort Hays won 25-23, 18-25, 25-18 and 25-20, and ended a 13-match losing streak to the Hornets.

It was the first win for FHSU against the Hornets since 2005, the last year before the Tigers joined the MIAA.

"Emporia State has had our number since we joined the conference, so it was nice to come out and get the win," Kohler said. "I thought that both teams matched up pretty well."

Ulrich led the team with 18 kills and a .600 hitting percentage and zero errors in 30 attempts. Saturday was the first time in Ulrich's career she had more than 19 attempts without an error. Hoagland tacked on 12 kills, third-most behind sophomore right side hitter Taylor Mares' 14, and hit .304. Fort Hays improved to 13-6, 3-3 MIAA, while Emporia State dropped to 9-6, 3-3 MIAA.

"As middles, me and Jenna are really fast," Hoagland said. "We can get up really fast and we can transition really fast and get in, and their blockers just weren't up on us. We would have one blocker every time. We worked in practice all week on cutting the ball and we just cut around their block, and they were going down."

The victory started at practice last week. Kohler called it the team's best week of practice all fall in preparation for Friday's home match against Washburn University, ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division II, and Saturday.

"What our team knows -- and maybe not what the crowd or the fans know as much -- is just how much we've overcome," Ulrich said. "We have gone through so much, we have set goals, we have hit them. We keep getting better everyday, and this past week of practice was awesome."

Against Washburn, the Tigers lost 25-23, 25-21, 28-26, but could have won all three sets. In the first set, FHSU led 21-20. In the second, Fort Hays was down 22-21. The Tigers blew a 24-17 lead in the third set. Afterward, Kohler struggled to find words in the postgame talk. Assistant coach Crystal Foss likened the loss to "getting hit by a bus." Kohler was worried how his team would react against ESU, but wasn't concerned after he saw his players going through warmups.

"It was like they totally forgot," Kohler said. "That's nice that they have a short memory. I thought they did a great job today."

Fort Hays led 9-1 in the first game, but ESU closed the gap to 22-21. In a rare move, Hoagland called for the ball late in the set. She wanted a "1," or a set down the middle.

"That play was actually one that we started taking away from our middles," Kohler said. "Because we were getting blocked so much early in the season. We've been working on it a lot in practice. We worked about a half an hour just with our middles this week, just working on that play, just cutting around a single block. It was fun to see her be able to have some success with it again."

When Hoagland received the set from Zoglman, she slammed it for a set-ending kill.

"I would love to be that player every single time," Hoagland said. "...I have confidence in Kayla, I have confidence in myself. It didn't take anything special. All we needed to do was just a normal play, and that's all I had in my mind."

In the second set, Fort Hays broke a 14-14 tie with four straight points, including two kills from Ulrich and a block by Ulrich and junior outside hitter Madison Schwartz.

"Kept moving side to side," Ulrich said. "It made it hard for them to read us. If we ran the same play over and over they could just stick on us, but I know both of us were going in front of Kayla, behind her, in front, behind."

After Emporia took the third set, Ulrich and Hoagland took over in the fourth set. The duo had five kills as Fort Hays took a 6-5 lead, an advantage they wouldn't lost. Fort Hays immediately celebrated after the Hornets ended the match on an attack error, but Ulrich just stood for a few seconds, her arms raised.

"I was just like 'Yes,'" Ulrich said. "Like in my head, that was the only thought was 'Yes.'"

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