Tiger volleyball wins two on Pass-Set-Pink night
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Fort Hays State University graduate assistant volleyball coach Crystal Foss, a former Friends University player and coach, tried to warn the Tiger players about how good the Falcons were. The message was received, but not as soon as the coaching staff would have liked.
"I thought our kids would come out and play a little harder than what we did. I knew Friends was going to be good," FHSU head coach Kurt Kohler said. "(Foss) was pretty familiar with a lot of these players and told us through the last couple of days in practice that it was going to be a tough match. But I really think we came out pretty hesitant and didn't take advantage of being a better team."
In the end, FHSU was able to battle past NAIA Friends University in both matches of Tuesday's doubleheader at Gross Memorial Coliseum. It was also FHSU's Pass-Set-Pink Night, which helps raise awareness for breast cancer.
FHSU (10-13) defeated the Falcons 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-21) in the first match, which saw predominantly reserves play for the Tigers against the Friends' JV squad.
Friends (19-8) came out swinging in the first set of the second match with its varsity players, rallying from a 12-6 deficit to beat FHSU 25-21. The Tigers were held to a .000 attack percentage with 18 attack errors in the set.
It wasn't until Friends had built a 7-1 lead in the second set that FHSU finally started to take the Falcons seriously.
"We struggled clicking as a team at the beginning, but we finally figured it out," junior middle hitter Samantha Ledy said. "We definitely found our fire and we found the desire to win. We started to come together as a team and we made the adjustments we needed to."
Fort Hays rallied to win the second set 25-22 and took that momentum into the third set where it jumped out to a 7-3 lead. Friends wouldn't back down, however, and forced many ties throughout the set, including at 23-23. Kills by Tiger junior Taylor Mares and senior Madison Schwartz ended the set.
The fourth set saw nine ties and five lead changes up to a 17-17 deadlock. A 4-1 run by FHSU would lead to a 25-23 set win for the Tigers and the match.
"We knew coming in that they were going to be tough and scrappy and that we needed to put it to them," Schwartz said. "We realized that they weren't just going to fold and lose for us. We had to come out stronger and better and we did."
The win gives the Tigers a season best fourth win in a row. FHSU has won 10 of its last 13 matches after starting 0-9.
As impressive as that is, the Tigers know most of those wins have come out of conference play. FHSU is only 1-7 in the MIAA, its lone win coming at home against Northwest Missouri State (9-11, 3-5 MIAA) on Sept. 28.
The Tigers will have a chance to improve upon that mark this weekend, beginning with a 7 p.m. home match on Friday against Missouri Southern, which at 0-8 in the conference and 4-16 overall is the only team below FHSU in the standings.
"Missouri Southern is a team that wants to beat somebody this year," Kohler said. "They know this is their opportunity.
"We are 1-7 in the conference and they are going to know they can beat us. They are going to have that confidence. We need to have the same confidence and just go out and dominate."
FHSU will also host Southwest Baptist (13-8, 3-5 MIAA) on Saturday at 3 p.m.