Lady Buffs drop Liberal in volleyball; WAC tourney up next on Saturday

VOLLEYBALL: Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020

The past couple of weeks have not exactly been a picnic for the Garden City High School Lady Buffaloes volleyball team.

Some nagging injuries, some illnesses have forced head coach Trista Bailey to employ a multitude of starting lineups with a variety of rotations as well.

On Tuesday night, though, the makeshift lineups seemed to come together in one of their best performances of the season, capturing a best 3-of-5 set match against Western Athletic Conference foe Liberal in a four-set decision at The Garden.

The Lady Buffs started off strong and finished off the first set with a 25-22 win after leading 23-15. Liberal answered with a 25-18 second-set win, but from there it was all Lady Buffs as they won the third set, 25-17, and finished off the Lady Redskins with a 25-22 triumph.

In that third set win, the Lady Buffs had taken a 16-11 just past the midway point. In the final and decisive fourth set, the Lady Buffs went up 20-15 only to see Liberal close to 23-22 before two final points ended the match on a kill by senior Abby Ellerman.

The effort was not lost on Bailey as she has had to juggle starters and rotations now for a couple of weeks.

“Tonight, they came out and executed our game plan offensively and defensively,” Bailey said. “This team has been through 3 to 4 different lineups over the last week. I am so proud of this group. They have had so many things thrown at them over the last week, but tonight they proved to themselves and to each other that they have what it takes to be a good team.”

From a statistical standpoint, senior McKenna Jagels had one of the best nights overall, recording 4 service aces, 14 kills and 13 digs. Senior Abby Parr had 23 digs to share the top spot in that category while Giselle Gutierrez recorded 2 service aces and 12 digs. Another senior, Melody Flores, had 1 ace, 13 kills and 23 digs. Mya Cruz had all 42 assists and contributed 17 digs. Symone Simmons had 3 kills.

Bailey said the team got strong contributions from a variety of players that helped them get through the tough sets.

“We got some solid contributions from several players tonight and to see them come together and execute our game plan was so rewarding,” Bailey said. “It’s really a testament to their character and resiliency. They are great kids and they made Garden City proud tonight.”

The victory allowed the Lady Buffs to even their season record at 13-13. Next up will be the Western Athletic Conference championship on Saturday at Great Bend. First serves will be at 10 a.m. in the round-robin format.

The Lady Buffs have won the WAC championship a record nine consecutive seasons, and this one may be the most challenging to defend. Already, the Lady Buffs have lost to Hays and Dodge City during the season, but also have beaten Dodge City, Great Bend and Liberal. Of their 13 losses, 9 of those have come against teams that have been ranked by the Kansas Volleyball Coaches Association in their respective classes.

Garden City will not play its first match Saturday until 11 a.m. when they take on rival Dodge City, with whom they have split matches this season. At noon, they will face the same Liberal team, at 1 p.m. they meet Hays and then conclude with a 2 p.m. match against host Great Bend.

Postseason play, with a different format employed due to COVID-19, will see the Lady Buffs play in a 4-team sub-state in Dodge City on Oct. 24, in which Hutchinson, Dodge City and Liberal will complete the bracket. The No. 1 seed will face No. 4 and 2 vs. 3 with winners playing for the sub-state title. A win there advances the team to a state quarterfinal match on Oct. 27 and that winner then advances to the final four teams at the state tournament on Oct. 30 at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina.

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