By Brett Marshall
At the end of the Dig Pink Night Thursday at The Garden, the Garden City High School Lady Buffaloes volleyball team had won two of their three matches.
In their first two matches of the night, the Lady Buffs held off Class 3A Scott City 26-24, 27-25 and then 4A Ulysses 25-16, 25-21, to set the stage for another rematch with rival Dodge City.
The Lady Red Demons, though, spoiled the last match of the night as they once again thwarted the Lady Buffs with a 25-19, 25-22 triumph. The 2-1 mark left coach Bob Schmitz' team with an 11-10 record.
"Dodge is I think about 18-1 and they don't have that kind of record for no reason at all," Schmitz said afterward. "A'zlynn Thompson (6-1 hitter) is about as good a volleyball player as you're going to get here in western Kansas. She's hard to figure out what she's really gonna do. She's extremely smart and knowledgeable in the game. She can kill it, dump it, tip it. I'm trying to get my players to be students of the game like her."
Schmitz, in his second year, can keep an eye on the future when one considers that six of his top seven front line players are underclassmen.
"My biggest offensive weapons I'm still going to have them next year," Schmitz said.
In the first set, the Lady Buffs were leading 14-13 but then saw Dodge City run off five unanswered points and they could never get closr than two points the rest of the set. In the second set, Dodge led early before the Buffs scored three straight points to knot the score at 8-all. It was tied again at 15 and 16 before the Red Demons managed to do just enough to fend off the Buffs. Garden pulled to within 23-22 before dropping the final two points to have the match closed out.
"We're right at that edge of being able to knock them off," Schmitz said of his team and their troubles with Dodge City. "They're a quality program and we're right there. We just need to break over that next hurdle."
Schmitz also was happy that for the first time this season, he had every varsity player in uniform for the matches.
"The girls reminded me of that before we started," Schmitz said. I think playing with everyone mixing together for the first time, and playing Dodge City that close, we're going to get them soon."
In the opening match against Scott City, the Lady Buffs could not pull away in either set against the Lady Beavers, who are in their first year under coach Jordan Shay. Scott City battled the Buffs on near-even terms, losing the two heartbreaking sets. Shay's team then handed Ulysses a 25-18, 25-11 loss before taking on Dodge City in its final match of the night.
The Lady Beavers took the Lady Demons to three sets, falling 25-15, 23-25, 25-21.
"We played Garden City really tight and thought we played pretty well with them," Shay said. "They have a lot of hard hitters and I don't think we were intimidated by them. Against Dodge City it was kind of a heartbreaker. We had a big lead coming into the third game. They do a lot of things we don't see with the smaller schools and Dodge City is coming to our tournament on Saturday so I hope we get another chance at them."
Shay said that her rookie campaign has seen her team improve in many ways.
"We had three new coaches and we didn't know the players very well and they didn't know us," Shay said. "It's been a challenge at times and we're all trying to adjust as best we can. It's night and day, though, how we're playing compared to the start of the season. We're playing really well together right now and at times we're clicking and meshing. We've really improved since the start of the season. I'm glad we got a chance to play these 6A schools. It should help us prepare for sub-state."
The Beavers are 17-10 heading into their own invitational on Saturday while the Lady Buffaloes (11-10) head to Derby on Saturday for its invitational tourney.