STORY BY RAEGAN NUEFELD
PHOTO BY CORBIN INGRIM
Friday night marked the first time this season the Fort Hays State volleyball team faced their opponent in Gross Memorial Coliseum, going up against the undefeated University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos.
The Tigers fell 25-9 in the first set but came back to win the second set 25-20. However, two more sets were all the Bronchos needed to keep their undefeated season alive, defeating FHSU 25-16 and 25-17. With the loss, FHSU moves to 5-6 on the season and 0-3 in conference play, while UCO moves to 13-0 and 3-0.
With head coach Jessica Wood-Atkins unable to be at the game, assistant coach Trevor Sullivan took over the role for FHSU.
“I think our right-side game was really strong from an offensive perspective,” he said. “Our blocking was pretty solid as well tonight, as well as our serving. (For Saturday) I think we need to work on our communication as a whole, having more consistency with our setting, and getting more offensive scoring from the outside.”
The Tigers totaled 17 blocks throughout the four sets, but hit just 5.6 percent, racking up 30 attack errors compared to the Bronchos’ 19. These errors contributed to the Tigers’ slow start in the first set.
“I think we need to get it going earlier in the game,” said sophomore right-side hitter Claire Olson. “We need to rely on our teammates to do their jobs and then do our own jobs. Really communicating and really being aggressive is what got us to win that second set.”
Olson led the Tigers on offense with 12 kills, followed by senior outside hitter Mykah Eshbaugh who had eight. Defensively, Olson and senior middle hitter Emily Ellis each recorded four block assists, and Ellis added one solo block. Junior libero Jaden Daffer and junior outside hitter Riley Tinder also defended well from the back row, totaling 21 and 16 digs, respectively.
Blocking and attacking were the keys for UCO. The Bronchos were more efficient, hitting 22.5 percent. They also ended with 21 total blocks. Leading UCO with 14 kills was Mallorie Koehn, and Jenna Karp who finished with eight block assists and one solo block.
Looking ahead to today’s game, communication seems to be the key for FHSU.
“We just need to talk more on the court,” Daffer said. “Letting each other know where we’re going, what we’re going to do, and strategizing more together as a team rather than by ourselves.”
Trust is another big factor for the Tigers, according to Olson.
“We see glimpses of really good volleyball if we really do trust each other, are in the right spots, and do our own roles,” she said. “But it’s a lot of ups and downs, so as long as we stay consistent with doing our own jobs, I think that will really help us [Satuday].”
The Tigers, at home again, look to capture their first conference win today against the Newman Jets. The game starts at 2:00 p.m. from inside Gross Memorial Coliseum.