Lady Buffs drop heartbreaker to Dodge
By BRETT MARSHALL
It wasn't the finish that the Garden City Lady Buffaloes volleyball team was looking for at its Dig Pink Quadrangular on Thursday night at the GCHS Gymnasium.
A heart-stopping, three-set loss to Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City (25-15, 12-25, 25-23) was not what Lady Buffaloes coach Sara Stecki wanted to see.
And the ending came in a controversial illegal substitution call on the Lady Buffs with the final set knotted at 20-all. When Jill Fischer ran onto the floor for an apparent substitution, she then came off the floor. Garden City first appeared to have won the next point, but the officials then called the point for Dodge City, citing the illegal substitution rule. The point taken away, awarded to Dodge City, was pivotal even though Garden rallied to tie the set at 23.
Taryn Tempel had a kill and Garden City's front line blocked Dodge City to draw even at 22 before the teams traded points once again.
Garden had a brief reprieve when Dodge City had a net serve, giving the Buffs new life at 23-23. Mekayla Guerrero committed the same serving error, giving Dodge a 24-23 lead and then on match point, Garden was called for a lift, enabling the Lady Demons to win in dramatic fashion.
"The girls fought hard," Stecki said. "We lost the first set of all three matches. We came back in the first two matches to win. That's my team, we've been struggling with our starts all season. We've got to find a better way, to find energy at the start. It's hard to rally when you're doing it all the time."
A big crowd helped celebrate and honor survivors and those who have passed away due to breast cancer. And Stecki said the crowd had a positive impact on her team.
"The crowd was terrific, the girls really feed off that," Stecki said. "It really pumps the girls up and they play better."
Earlier, the Lady Buffs had rallied to defeat Ulysses (21-25, 25-22, 25-21) and Scott City (22-25, 25-17, 25-12).
In the opening matches, both which went three sets, Garden City dropped the first one to Ulysses, 25-21, before rallying to win the final two by scores of 25-22 and 25-21.
Stecki said her team also needed to improve its serving, giving away numerous points on faulty services.
"You know you're going to have some, everybody does, but we're giving away too many points," Stecki said.
The Lady Buffs struggled early against the Lady Tigers, falling behind early in Set 1 by an 8-3 score, eventually tying the score at 10. From there, Ulysses played well behind the strong blocking and kill shots of sophomore Kyann Eslick, the coach's sophomore daughter.
Stecki's squad did pull within two at 21-19, but Ulysses held the Lady Buffs off for the win in the opener.
The second and third sets were much the same, as it went back and forth in the second set, this time Garden sneaking out to a four-point lead at 18-14 and then holding off a late rally by the Lady Tigers at 22-20. It was 24-20 before Ulysses stayed alive at 24-22, but then Garden got the final point to even the match at one-set apiece.
In the rubber-game, Garden jumped out to an early advantage, owning leads of 13-9 and 15-11. The Lady Buffs extended the margin to 23-16 and then played well enough down the stretch to rally for the match victory.
Scott City was in the same kind of match with Dodge City, falling in the first set by a 25-17 score in which they trailed throughout.
But the Lady Beavers came alive in the second set, fighting for a 25-23 win to even their match with the Lady Demons. Set 3 was again, nip-and-tuck, but Dodge City played well down the stretch and came away with the four-point win.
In the middle match of the evening, it was Ulysses and Scott City in a battle of Great West Activities Conference rivals. Ulysses won a hard-fought battle with the Lady Beavers, losing the first set, 25-22 before coming back for wins of 25-17, 25-12.
"It was a funny night for us," Ulysses coach Courtney Eslick said. "It's always good to come up and play teams like Dodge and Garden. Scott's always a tough match for us, too. You don't get better by playing weak teams and this was good for us as we look toward the postseason."
Eslick had to play most of the night without the services of his middle blocker, Amanda Langley, who twisted an ankle and missed much of the first match and all of the final two.
His Lady Tigers had opened with a tough three-set loss to Garden City and ended on a 25-15, 25-20 setback to Dodge City.
"When you take her (Langley) height out, it makes it tougher for us," Eslick said. His Lady Tigers are now 22-9 for the season and will travel to Lakin on Monday for a dual.
Scott City coach Jordan Shay, while disappointed in losing all three of their matches, found a sliver of positives to take away.
"I'm happy that we could take all three matches to three sets, but you'd always like to get at least one of them," Shay said. "It was a tough night, especially without Kelly (Wyckoff)."
Wyckoff, a junior, is the team's setter and floor general for Shay, and twisted an ankle in a recent match, so she could only watch from the bench.
"She's just the one we look to for getting the ball to the people in the right locations, and is a great leader," Shay said. "I thought the girls played well at times, just a little inconsistent and we need to find those things and shore them up for the last part of the season."
The Lady Beavers are now 14-11 and will host their own invitational tournament on Saturday. For Garden City, there is little rest as the Lady Buffs, now 13-8, compete at 9 a.m. Saturday in the always-tough Derby Invitational.
Garden City High School
Dig Pink Volleyball Quadrangular
at GCHS Gymnasium
Garden City def. Ulysses, 21-25, 25-22, 25-21
Dodge City def. Scott City 25-17, 23-25, 25-21
Ulysses def. Scott City 22-25, 25-17, 25-12
Garden City def. Scott City 22-25, 25-17, 25-12
Dodge City def. Ulysses 25-15, 25-20
Dodge City def. Garden City 25-15, 12-25, 25-23