Through the many errors Garden City Community College's volleyball team committed Wednesday night, signs of the Busters’ recent progress still shone through.
The Busters had 16 errors in the first set alone, and 13 more in the second set, but still found enough offense to win both sets, 25-23, over the visiting Pratt Beavers inside of the Conestoga Arena. And when the Busters finally quelled their mistakes, they routed the Beavers in the third and final set, 25-15, sweeping their conference opponent.
And yet, head coach Jacque Matula was disappointed.
“I think just because of how well we’ve been playing against every team we’ve faced, it’s disappointing to play not to that level, even for two sets,” she said. “I just know my girls are capable of playing much better.”
That’s the first sign of the improvement they have made, considering the Busters had only two wins through their first 16 matches. Just three weeks ago, the Busters escaped Pratt with a five-set win, their first in the KJCCC this season. But since Sept. 29, the Busters are 5-2, including 3-1 in the conference, to improve to 8-19 overall and 4-7 in the Jayhawk Conference.
“I think we’ve just been aggressive all the way around,” Matula said of the turnaround, “minus today. Today, we didn’t limit our errors as much as we have been.”
The Busters committed an unsightly 34 errors in the three-set match (7-24, 2-9), but they had just five in the final set.
“Once we got to set three, probably five, six points into the game, we started playing more of our game, playing more to what we’re capable of playing, where we’ve been capable of playing,” Matula said.
Other signs of the progress the Busters have made were there, too. Freshman middle blockers Harlee Davis and Kaylee Line (a Lakin High School graduate) had eight kills each, thanks in large part to a center attack that the Busters saw up close and personal three weeks ago against Hutchinson.
It’s just a quick set to an already jumping attacker, who spikes the ball before a defender has a chance to block or dig out the kill. It was impossible to stop against Hutchinson, which won the match 3-0 over the Busters, and Matula said the Busters had been installing it but hadn’t quite gotten the timing of it down, yet.
Wednesday, they did.
With the Busters struggling early in the match, Line and setter Morgan Gray teamed up for the quick center kill. They did it again on back-to-back points later in the first set, and Gray and Davis connected a few times on it, as well, over the course of the match.
It all came down to better communication, Line and Davis agreed, as well as just playing faster.
“We have a great connection together,” Line said. “We play really well together as a team, and we’ve just started picking it up, playing a faster offense.”
That quick middle attack opened up a few more lanes for outside hitter Shaney "Boogie" Tiumalu, who led the Busters Wednesday with 12 kills.
“With Kaylee and Harlee, in the two years I’ve been here, they’ve been the quickest and fastest learning middles, and the most trusting of me and buying into what I’m saying,” Matula said.
And both are freshmen, Matula said, with a wry grin with the thought of next year.
But this season is still the focus, with the Busters beginning to make a run up the conference standings. At one point, they were second-to-last. Now, they are in sixth, just a half-game behind Barton, which the Busters host on Oct. 25.
“I really think we can go far,” Davis said, “if we keep doing what we’re doing … just keep going as hard as we are.”
The Busters' next action is 6:30 p.m. Friday, when they host seventh-place Dodge City.