BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
PHOTOS BY MADISON SHAPLAND
Despite their Tuesday night game with #8 Nebraska-Kearney resulting in a loss, the Tigers proved they can compete with a top-ten team.
After losing the first set 25-16, Fort Hays (10-15, 5-12 MIAA) bounced back to win the second, 25-17. However, the Lopers (24-3, 14-3 MIAA) closed out the game with the following two sets, winning 25-21 and 25-19.
“We knew in the past that [UNK] has been one of the top teams in our conference and they’re obviously really consistent,” said outside hitter Riley Tinder. “I think the biggest takeaway is that we can play with these teams. We’re just as good as these teams; we just have to believe it ourselves.”
According to Head Coach Jessica Wood-Atkins, the difference between the first and second set was made defensively.
“We talked about making those adjustments, and when we did, we won,” she said. “Really it was working on the adjustment plan, recognizing where they wanted to hit, being in the right positions and more importantly, getting a good touch on that first pass.”
Tinder led the Tigers with 13 kills. Behind her were fellow outside hitters Gracie Rains and Mykah Eshbaugh with 10 and eight kills respectively. Three Tigers reached double digits in digs as well, led by libero Jaden Daffer who had 20. Tinder recorded 15 and defensive specialist Brooke Hyland recorded 12. As a team, FHSU served 95.1 percent.
“We’ve been working really hard on playing steady,” Wood-Atkins said. “Not getting caught in the end result, not getting caught in the beginning, but really being present in the moment point-for-point. I think we did that and it was a really enjoyable game to watch, but we played a more focused match when we took that approach.”
The Lopers did manage to be more efficient on offense, recording 53 kills compared to the Tigers’ 44. Individually, Bailee Sterling and Emilee Rowse led UNK in kills with 16 and 13. The Lopers also played a better defensive game, recording 72 digs while FHSU had 58.
With three games left in the regular season, Wood-Atkins said her team is taking it one game at a time.
“As always, we’re focusing on the next day and next play,” she said. “That’s going to be our focus, is who’s our next opponent. It’s Northwest Missouri and we’re going after them.”
The Tigers travel to Maryville, MO to take on the Bearcats on Friday. The game will start at 6:00 p.m.