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Tiger volleyball sees streak end

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University volleyball team wasn't short on big, powerful swings by its hitters on Tuesday against visiting University of Nebraska-Kearney. The problem was the Lopers seemed to have an answer for every one of them.

"Their defense is so frustrating to play against and that's what a good defense does -- they frustrate you until you make a mistake and I felt like that's what Kearney did tonight," FHSU coach Kurt Kohler said. "They dug enough balls that we had to start thinking, 'How are we going to score the next point?' "

Behind its unshakable defense, No. 7-ranked UNK defeated FHSU 3-1 (13-25, 25-22, 18-25, 11-25) at Gross Memorial Coliseum, ending a six-game win streak for the Tigers.

It was the second win of the season for UNK over the Tigers, the first coming on Sept. 17 in Kearney, 3-0.

UNK (22-3, 8-2 MIAA) cruised to the first set win before FHSU (12-13, 3-8 MIAA) did the unthinkable in the second set. Trailing 16-11, the Tigers rallied to tie the set at 17 and again at 21. Then a Taylor Mares' kill started a 3-0 run, and it was an emphatic kill by Mares that gave the set to the Tigers.

It was the first set win for FHSU over UNK since a 3-1 loss in 2005 under former coach Steve Smith. The Tigers last match win over UNK came in 2003 under Jesse Mahoney, 3-2.

"We know what we need to do and we did take a set from them so that's a confidence builder," FHSU junior outside hitter Sara Hewson said. "Now we just need to take that and do it every single time."

The Tigers opened the third set by taking a 7-2 lead, but saw it gradually slip away. FHSU kept it close until 15-16, when a 6-0 run by UNK put it away.

The final set was only close until 6-6. The Lopers outscored FHSU 19-5 the rest of the way to take the match.

"I felt like our kids played hard, it's just we didn't always play smart. We didn't stay aggressive when we need to," Kohler said. "We are a very mental team. We have our ups and downs based on our attitude of the day or the confidence that we have. That needs to change."

Mares led the Tigers with 13 kills, hitting .296 for the match. UNK recorded 81 digs to 61 for FHSU, and Loper senior middle hitter Ellie Pesavento finished with nine kills, putting her over a 1,000 in her career, the 24th UNK player to do so.

FHSU was held to a .057 attack percentage for the match, hitting in the red in two of the sets. UNK hit .264 for the match.

"We had to work hard for every point and they really kept the pressure on and stayed aggressive," said Hewson, who finished with five kills and 10 digs. "We got timid at times. I think our goal for the rest of the week is to stay aggressive through the entire match and not get timid."

The Tigers will next play at Central Oklahoma (18-7, 6-5 MIAA) on Friday at 6 p.m., and at Pittsburg State (14-11, 4-6 MIAA) on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.