Freshmen come up clutch for FHSU women

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Fort Hays State's Olivia Hollenbeck is hugged by teammate Carly Thompson after Hollenbeck came up big down the stretch of FHSU's 68-60 win over Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

In a pressure situation and pivotal game in the MIAA title race, a pair of freshmen delivered in the clutch for the Fort Hays State women's basketball team this past Saturday against Nebraska-Kearney. 

Katie Wagner scored six straight points early in the fourth quarter, and Olivia Hollenbeck came through with a late block and 3-point play to help the Tigers beat UNK for the second straight game, 68-60. 

The Tigers have relied heavily on freshmen all season, but FHSU coach Tony Hobson said it was particularly encouraging to see first-year Tigers step up "when the chips are down."

"It was tight and they did not wilt from the big moment, that's for sure," Hobson said. "I thought Katie delivered a couple big baskets, scoring on (Brooke) Carlson inside and then led us in rebounding. Olivia stepped up big. Sydney Golladay guarded their point guard the whole game and really worked hard."

After two wins over UNK in a three-day span put the 11-2 Tigers tied atop the MIAA standings, FHSU will look to care of business at home this week, hosting Newman at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and then welcoming in Central Oklahoma at 4 p.m. Saturday in a contest that will follow the men's game. 

Wagner, a Maize South product, hit three jumpers in a row to help Fort Hays take a 10-point lead early in the quarter Saturday. 

With Kearney within four late, Hollenbeck, a 6-foot-3 Lincoln, Neb., native, blocked a shot from Carlson and then converted a 3-point play on the other end to help put the Lopers away. 

Hollenbeck, who has started 11 of the Tigers' 13 games, is averaging 7.4 points, 3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.

"Your expectations go up when you're in the starting lineup and more is expected of you," Hobson said. "She has withstood that well. She takes it to heart, she works very hard and tries to correct her mistakes. 

"I was impressed with how she is not afraid of the moment."

The Tigers, ranked No. 11 in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association poll, have won six straight games since dropping back-to-back contests against Emporia State and Central Missouri. 

"Right now I think everyone is kind of filling their role and understands what the team needs of them," Hobson said. "That's what you hope happens as the season progresses but sometimes it never does."

Bergmann solid for Tigers 

Hobson said junior forward Cydney Bergmann has played a key role in the team's success, doing the little things for the Tigers. 

Bergmann, who is averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds, scored 10 points in Saturday's win against UNK and had 11 rebounds in Thursday's 61-49 victory in Kearney. 

"She's surpassed what I was hoping she could do for our program some day, and she's got the rest of this year and two more years left with us," Hobson said of the Concordia native. "She's got there quickly. 

"She gives us a lot of intangible things that some players can't or don't want to do, just by playing hard and showing up every day. She's just that kid that you need in your lineup that is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Now she's starting to throw in eight or ten points a game, and that's just an added bonus."

FHSU not looking past Newman

Newman enters Thursday with a 3-11 mark, setting up what Hobson called a "trap game" for his team. 

"Our kids have been really good about not overlooking opponents and having respect for each team," Hobson said. "We talked about that (Monday): Each game is just as important as the other, really. You can't afford to lose any of them.

"Hopefully it will help a little bit being at home, and just being in that exciting time of year where you're playing well. You've got four weeks left. It's a stretch run. You can see the finish line, you just need to keep you're head down and prepare for each game."