By BRETT MARSHALL
For the Garden City High School volleyball team and its rookie coach, Sara Stecki, it was just simply one of the nights where you could "Dig it."
The Lady Buffs could dig their 3-0 sweep of Ulysses, Scott City and Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City at the Garden.
They could dig Senior Night, in which Kristen Heiman, Chinasa Ekweariri and Abby Martinez made their final home appearance a successful and memorable one.
And last, but certainly not least, they could dig the "Dig Pink Night" in which breast cancer survivors were honored and those who succumbed were remembered.
"It was a good night for sure, but I can't really put it all into words," Stecki said after the team's final match win over the Lady Red Demons of Dodge City. "All the coaches, all the parents, all the players put so much into tonight. I was really nervous because we didn't have the same intense practices we normally do because of all the other things we had going on. But I think it went well."
The Lady Buffs (14-10) swept the Lady Red Demons, 25-18 and 25-15.
Certainly, after hard-fought wins earlier in the evening over a tough Class 4A Ulysses Lady Tiger team (25-23, 25-23), and then an equally battle-tested Scott City Lady Beaver squad (25-22, 25-21), Stecki could look back with a sense of accomplishment.
"We've got a lot of chemistry on the team and the girls know what they need to do," Stecki said. "I know they've been saying these types of matches are the ones we used to lose, so that's good to see the girls showing that confidence that you want and need."
Indeed, that rallying characteristic was never more evident than in the first set of the first match against Ulysses in which the Lady Buffs found themselves down 19-13, but rallied back to finally tie the game at 20 and then hold off Ulysses (17-12) to claim that all-important opener. It seemed to set the tone for the entire three-match quadrangular.
"It seems they find a way at the critical points to come up with the big points and this was the first time I've looked into their eyes, and not seen the look of defeat when they've gotten down," Stecki said. "The mental aspect of the game is huge."
That same never-say-die aspect of the game is huge."
That same never-say-die attitude prevailed in the second set with the Lady Tigers as they fought back from deficits of 11-4, 20-15 and 23-21 to earn their second 25-23 triumph.
Martinez said that the team has simply jelled and gained confidence under the leadership of Stecki.
"We've just made a lot of progress," Martinez said. "Our passing, our blocking, defense, has all gotten better. Our confidence has gone up. This just feels so good."
Against Scott City, the Lady Buffs broke free of a 17-17 tie and went on to earn a 25-22 win.
"Scott City's really scrappy, and they've got a lot of good players and do a good job," Stecki said of the Lady Beavers, who went 1-2 and are now 18-9 for the season.
The Lady Beavers lost a three-set match to Dodge City (22-25, 25-19, 25-27) and then dropped Great West Activities Conference foe Ulysses, 25-16, 26-24.
"It was good experience for us to see Garden City and to get the win against Ulysses," said Scott City's Jordan Shay, The Telegram's 2010 Area Volleyball Coach of the Year. "We really didn't have too much to lose, and the experience will be good for us as we head toward postseason.
"We've got a lot of new girls and they've really adjusted well and improved. We didn't have much experience back from last year, so to see us be competitive and nearly win here is a good sign."
In their second set against Scott City, the Lady Buffs trailed 12-9 before starting their comeback.
Six straight points put them on top, 15-12, before the Lady Beavers rallied to knot the score at 20. Garden got the big points down the stretch to win by four, 25-21.
While the Lady Buffs have had their struggles in recent years against Dodge City, they were dominant in the final match of the night.
They jumped on the Lady Red Demons early, 10-4, and Dodge never got closer than three points. In the final set, they broke from an early 3-3 tie, led 11-6 and won, 25-15.
"It's great to see the girls picking it up and doing things that they've struggled with before," Stecki said. "They didn't let the pressure get to them.
"The crowd was wonderful, the girls talked about it all season, and it was just a really good night for us."
In the other final match of the night, Dodge City went three sets before topping Ulysses.
The Lady Buffs hit the road on Saturday for the Derby Invitational with their first match slated to begin at 10 a.m.