Garden holds off Dodge for five set win

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Community College's Alli Meng, center, drives the ball past Dodge City's Abby Francis, left, and Maria Fernanda Fernaes Alcantara Thursday for a kill at Perryman Athletic Complex. The Broncbusters won the match over their rival in five sets.

There have been times this season where Garden City Community College has looked downright dominant. Other times, they appear to lack energy, which is arguably understandable considering Patrick Hiltz's team has endured a nine-match in 17-day stretch. On Thursday, fans got a little bit of both, but in the end, it was enough for the Broncbusters to earn their 11th win of the season. 

Reagan Karlin and Tauja Durham combined for 35 kills, Remi Vargas had 45 assists, and Garden City survived a furious Dodge City rally to beat the Conquistadors in five sets 25-21, 25-20, 17-25, 16-25, 15-8 at Conestoga Arena. With the win, the Broncbusters improved to 11-12 overall and 7-6 in conference play.

"I could have asked for a three-set sweep," Hiltz said with a slight chuckle. "But it was an outstanding job of our girls putting everything behind them and responding in the fifth set. They played really good volleyball."

It didn't appear a fifth set would be needed after the Broncbusters controlled the first two. In the opener, it was Vargas setting up Karlin for three straight kills, Alli Meng slammed one down the middle, and Garden City was up 22-14. After Hiltz called timeout once Dodge City sliced the lead to three, Vargas passed to Durham, whose vicious spike landed just inside the right boundary. Karlin followed with a kill, and the Conquistadors were called for a net violation, giving the Broncbusters a four-point win.

"Reagan is good enough where she can get 15 to 20 kills a night if she was sleepwalking," Hiltz explained. "I really challenged Reagan to wake up and lead us because she's capable of having a big night every night."

In the second set, the Broncbusters saw their early three-point lead evaporate. Hillary English recorded back-to-back kills, and Dodge City had a 15-12 lead. But Garden City countered. Tauja Durham's attack deflected off the Dodge City block, and Karlin tallied three straight spikes, fueling a 10-2 run that put the Broncbusters up five. Pulelehua  Keb fired off a kill, and Ruby Osawey was charged with a service error, putting Garden City up 2-0.

"Pulelehua is never going to put up big numbers because she's playing out of position," Hiltz said. "But she does so many things for us. Her leadership effect is not only what this team needs, but it's what this program needs to get it turned around and headed in the right direction. So, her value to this team really can't be measured."

Garden City appeared tired in the third, and Dodge City took full advantage. English blocked a couple of Broncbuster attacks, Aneesa Thompson nailed a crosscourt kill, and Karlin committed an attack error to give Dodge City the game. Then in the fourth, the Conquistadors had Garden City reeling. They opened up a five-point cushion following a Keb miscue, English powered home a kill before finishing off the stanza with a crosscourt laser that sent the match to a fifth set.

"I told our team that this is our court in that fifth set," outside hitter, Alli Meng said. "I told them that I was tired of other teams taking that from us. Getting that momentum back really fired us up."

And Meng carried them home.

The freshman, who left the match briefly in the first set with an apparent injury, returned to fuel her team in the finale. The Garden City native tipped one ball over the net for a 5-4 advantage. She followed that up with three kills before powering a crosscourt shot that hugged the right sideline to put the Broncbusters up 11-5. Durham added two kills, then teamed up with Angel Sherman for a double block to end the match.

"Beating Dodge City is always fun," Meng added. "My entire life, it's always been about beating Dodge City. And after they stole it from us the first time, it was great to get it back."

Meng recorded five of her 11 kills in that decisive frame for Garden City, which won their second five-set match in six days.

Garden City is back in action on Monday when they travel to Liberal for a 6:30 p.m. match with Seward County.