GCCC beats Indy; tied for first place with Seward
INDEPENDENCE - Not even mother nature and all her fury could slow down the Broncbuster freight train on Tuesday.
Despite snow and ice delaying their match with Independence for 24 hours, Garden City looked locked in. Reagan Karlin finished with 15 kills and 13 digs, Remi Vargas posted 24 assists, and the brown and gold destroyed Independence in three sets 25-13, 25-21, 25-15 at Pirates' Fieldhouse.
"I'm really proud of how this team responds to change and adversity," Head Coach Patrick Hiltz said. "It would have been really easy to be a player down, on the road for six days and use all of that as an excuse to play poorly. We didn't."
The win pushed Garden City back over .500 in front of Thursday's showdown with 5-2 Colby. More importantly, the Broncbusters improved to 3-0 in conference, and are now tied with Seward for first place in the Jayhawk West.
"We maintained a high level of focus throughout and took care of business," Hiltz added.
With Garden City trailing 2-0 in the opening frame, Vargas and Karlin went to work. The tandem connected on a perfect set-spike combo that got the Broncbusters on the board. Moments later, Tauja Durham dug out a line-drive attack by Jordan Carter that eventually setup another Karlin kill. The freshman tallied five spikes in the first set including back-to-back kills that helped Garden City build an 11-point advantage.
"We passed really well today, which has been an issue the last few games," Hiltz explained. "So, it was nice to see that aspect of our game come back to us today."
In the second set, Garden City decisively erased a five-point deficit. Durham blocked an Indy attack, Gehret setup Karlin beautifully before the freshman libero, who entered Tuesday's match second in the nation in digs, scooped the ball off the floor, eventually yielding a Durham kill that knotted the score at 15. Durham added a block, Laren Baldowsky crushed a crosscourt kill, and Garden City had set point. And it was only fitting that Vargas grooved a perfect pass to Karlin for the spike to give the Broncbusters a 2-0 advantage
"We really understood the scouting report today," Hiltz said. For a young team, that's a big step to understand and implement."
Garden City left no doubt in the third, opening up a 7-2 lead. Baldowsky chipped in a block and an assist, Karlin setup Durham for a kill, and Angel Sherman and Keb combined for a block that put the Broncbusters on top 15-7. Once Independence crawled back to within four, the brown and gold scored the final six points of the match, punctuated by a Karlin spike.
"We are ready to go home, and we look forward to a good challenge on Thursday," Hiltz said.
Durham tallied 10 kills and nine digs for Garden City, which snapped a three-match losing streak. Gehret added four aces and 18 digs, and Baldowsky recorded four blocks.
CONFERENCE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
No matter what happens the rest of the way, Garden City volleyball is back to respectability. And a big reason for that is Patrick Hiltz and his recruiting class, which received some recognition on Tuesday.
Following their three-set victory over Independence, Remi Vargas was named the Jayhawk Conference setter of the week while Victoria Gehret was honored as the best defensive player in the league over the past seven days.
"I think both young ladies are well deserving of the honor," Hiltz said. "Remi is like a coach on the floor for us, and Tori was simply electric this past weekend."
Vargas has been amazing in her first season in brown and gold. The freshman posted a season-high 56 assists in a five-set loss to No. 12 Eastern Wyoming before adding 42 against No. 5 Western Nebraska. She ranks 8th nationally with 360 assists.
"Remi keeps everyone rowing in the same direction," Hiltz explained. "She's still learning the offense and will only continue to get better as she grows more and more comfortable with what we are trying to do."
Meantime Gehret has been arguably one of the best liberos in the nation. Her 228 digs are second in the country behind only Emma Ricks from Utah State Eastern. She posted 22 digs in a three-set victory over Lamar; then added 30 in a five-set loss to Eastern Wyoming.
The Broncbusters will be back in action at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday when they host Colby.
A limited number of fans will be admitted to the match. Tickets can be purchased at https://gcccks.hometownticketing.com/admin/events/view/16. Tickets are open to GCCC students and home fans. There will be no ticket sales for visiting fans.