Tiger volleyball picks up first win
By AUSTIN COLBERT
The sound coming out of the Tigers' locker room was a mixture of happiness and relief. It came after the Fort Hays State University volleyball team defeated visiting Northwest Missouri State University 3-1 on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Set scores were 30-28, 25-20, 23-25, 25-17.
"There were a lot of screaming girls. We were just so excited and overwhelmed with joy that we finally got that first win," sophomore Mallory Flagor said. "The beginning of the season was kind of rough. We really did come together as a team and we stayed happy for each other the entire time."
It was the first win of the season for the Tigers, who lost their first nine matches, including an 0-4 start to MIAA play. It was also the first time this season FHSU has won more than one set in a single match.
After a 23-14 season a year ago, and with most of the roster returning, the team's 0-9 start was anything but expected. The Tigers lost their first five matches of the season in Hawaii and frustration started to set in. Four more losses followed, all in conference, and frustration was turning into desperation.
According to FHSU coach Kurt Kohler, the Tigers simply got tired of losing.
"We really got focused and were ready for a win," Kohler said. "I think today was a complete team effort and we haven't see that this year. I know we have been capable of it. We just haven't done it. So it's fun to watch how good our girls can play together when they put their minds to it."
The team's willpower was tested early against Northwest (6-6, 2-2 MIAA). After leading 4-0 in the first set, FHSU collapsed and would trail 10-6. The Tigers fought back to retake the lead at 16-15, and the team's battled back and forth from there. The Bearcats had set point on four occasions, but FHSU found an answer each time.
Samantha Ledy's kill finished it at 30-28, giving the Tigers a rare set led.
"We haven't won that many sets so winning that first one definitely made a difference," junior Taylor Mares said. "We made it a point to say that we are going to play for the girl beside us. I think that's why we got the win."
FHSU trailed 8-3 in the second set, but used a 6-0 run midway through to take the lead and followed with another 4-0 run to eventually lead 21-13. The Bearcats found a rally of their own, cutting their deficit to 21-17, but a strong finish by the Tigers would give them a 2-0 set lead.
FHSU had chances to win the third set and held the lead at 22-21. But mistakes cost them and a 3-0 run by the Bearcats gave them the set.
"We knew in that third set that we made lots of errors ourselves," Kohler said. "I think our girls were focused enough and understood we could beat this team. They just had to really push."
The Tigers cruised in the fourth set, building a 21-10 lead and held on to earn their first victory of the season. Senior Jenna Ulrich finished with nine blocks, senior Makenzie Weinman had 28 digs, and Mares led the team with 18 kills and hit .394.
"(Mares) is a gamer. Sometimes in practice we don't always see what she is capable of, but she always steps up in a game," Kohler said. "For her to get 18 kills is a big night for her."
A pleasant surprise came from Flagor, who was second on the team with 14 kills, hitting .163. She had 43 touches to lead the team.
"She is starting to get confident," Kohler said. "She is capable of playing this way, I just think over the last three matches she has got that confidence built up."
FHSU (1-9, 1-4 MIAA) will host McPherson College (10-10) at 5:30 p.m. Monday.