GOODWELL, Okla. – Fort Hays State opened the 2018 season and the Jessica Wood-Atkins head coaching era with a pair of wins at the Aggies Challenge, hosted by Oklahoma-Panhandle State. The Tigers swept both matches, defeating the tournament host 3-0 in their morning match before returning in the afternoon to defeat Science and Arts (Okla.) 3-0.
Fort Hays State 3, Panhandle State 0 (26-24, 27-25, 25-16)
Fort Hays State fought off a pesky Panhandle State squad in a pair of close sets before running away with the third set for a 3-0 win in its season opener. The Tigers used solid defense averaging 21 digs per set as a team to hold the Aggies to a negative hitting percentage of -.026, despite fighting a few struggles offensively with a .121 hitting percentage of their own.
Tatum Bartels and Isabelle Reynolds led the way for the Tigers, each recording 10 kills and just three errors. Bartels hit .467 on 15 swings, while Reynolds hit .368 on 19 swings. Bre Becker recorded a double-double as the Tigers' starting setter with 27 assists and 11 digs. Abbie Hayes led the Tigers in digs with 16, averaging 5.3 per set. Azlyn Cassaday and Taylor White also reached double figures in digs with 11 each.
Fort Hays State opened up a comfortable lead of 16-7 in the first set before struggling to put the set away late. OPSU fought off five set points, starting at 24-19, to tie the set 24-24 and force a win-by-two scenario. But the Tigers promptly responded with kills from Ashley Webb and Tatum Bartels.
The sluggish play late in the first set by the Tigers carried over for a little while in the second set, falling down 13-9. FHSU finally kicked it in gear with an 8-0 run to blow past OPSU into a 17-13 lead. But the Aggies did not fold and fought off two set points to get the game tied 24-24. Another OPSU point forced a timeout, but the Tigers went on a 3-0 run to take the set 27-25.
With a 7-5 lead early in the third set, the Tigers went on a 6-0 run to build a comfortable lead. They cruised the rest of the way to a 25-16 win and a three-set sweep of the home team. FHSU held OPSU to a -.171 hitting percentage in the third set.
Courtney Adams led the Aggies with six kills, followed by Kendra Butler and Quiara Pointdexter each with five. Cailyn Berry produced 15 assists for OPSU and Summer Middleton had a team-best nine digs.
Fort Hays State 3, Science & Arts (Okla.) 0 (25-11, 25-5, 25-10)
Fort Hays State had no trouble dispatching of Science and Arts (Okla.) in its second match of the day. The Tigers hit a blistering .680 in the first set with 18 kills and just one error before finally settling at .507 overall for the match. The Tigers finished with 39 kills and just four errors on 69 attempts.
With lopsided set scores, plenty of Tigers saw action. Christianna Herron and libero Abbie Hayes were the only Tigers that started to see three sets of action. Madison Elwood, Kayla Vitztum, and Katie Darnell also logged three sets of action off the bench.
Tatum Bartels was flawless, hitting .800 for the match with eight kills on 10 swings in just two sets of action. Elwood and Vitztum also avoided hitting errors. Elwood put down seven kills on 14 swings (.500) and Vitztum had six kills on 11 swings (.545). Azlyn Cassaday was efficient in her one set of action, recording five kills on six swings (.833).
Three Tiger setters saw action in the game, led by Bre Becker's 14 assists. Darnell had nine and Becca Page added five. The Tigers spread 34 digs around amongst the team. Abbie Hayes led the way with six.
The Tigers held the Drovers to negative hitting percentages in the last two sets and a dismal -.101 overall for the match. Samiya West led the Drovers in kills with four.
Fort Hays State plays two more matches in Goodwell, Oklahoma on Saturday, taking on the University of St. Thomas at 9 am and the University of the Southwest at 7 pm.