Youthful GCHS squad falls to pair of 5A-ranked teams

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Jennicah Pinchon makes a kill against Newton Tuesday during the Buffaloes home-opening volleyball triangular.

In just 48 hours between Saturday’s season-opening tournament in Goddard and Tuesday’s home opening matches, Garden City High School volleyball Coach Trista Bailey saw considerable improvement from her youthful and inexperienced team.

Having gone 1-3 in the AVCTL tournament to open the season, all Bailey did was watch her squad go from the frying pan into the fire of top-level competition by hosting a pair of Class 5A preseason ranked teams in Newton (already a loss to the Railers on Saturday) and Maize South.

Newton came in ranked No. 8 while Maize South’s powerhouse squad was preseason ranked No. 5 and both showed the crowd at The Garden why they were given such lofty consideration.

The Buffs, though, showed the improvement to their coach by taking the first set of the Newton match, 25-21, before succumbing to the Railers in the final two sets, 16-25 and 21-25. The two visiting schools matched up in the middle of the evening’s schedule with Maize South powering past Newton 25-14, 25-18.

That set up the final match of the evening for the Buffs and they struggled against the Mavericks, dropping consecutive sets by scores of 9-25 and 12-25. Still, there were bright spots for the GCHS from their head coach.

“We showed so much more improvement in all areas from Saturday, so I’ll take the 48 hours of improvement to today and if we make this much improvement in the next 48 hours (Thursday home matches with Liberal and Great Bend at 4 p.m.), then I’ll be happy with that, too,” Bailey said.

Garden City High School's Piper Harris, right, bumps a Newton serve as she and teammate Adelenna Unzueta go after the ball Tuesday during a home volleyball triangular.

In the opening set against Newton (which had dealt the Buffs a 15-25, 25-23, 12-25 on Saturday), the home squad found the supporting crowd and after trailing 3-6 early, had the score tied at 7, 11 and 14 before reeling off five straight points for a 19-14 lead.

Still up by five at 23-18, Newton rattled off three consecutive points to slice the lead to just 23-21. But the Buffs claimed the first set with two closing points, winning 25-21.

That momentum, though, was short-lived as they fell behind the Railers early, 3-10, and could never produce a long-run rally to close the gap, dropping the middle set 16-25. In the third and deciding set, the Buffs battled gamely, having the game knotted at 10 before falling behind 16-22. Four consecutive points pulled them to within two at 20-22 and it looked like ol’ Momentum was on their side.

Newton, however, got a lengthy rally point to go up 23-20 and the teams traded points before the final set and match point was earned by the Railers, 21-25.

“Overall, we were just much better on the defensive side of the net,” Bailey said. “This time playing Newton I was impressed with the turnaround in 48 hours. Just their mental toughness in that first set, you could see, against Newton. That’s what we’ll take away from this. There are definitely some good things to take away.” Bailey said the big learning curve for her all-new starting lineup is getting acclimated to the speed of the game at the varsity level.

“We improved on the offensive side, too, but the more we see this type of competition, the better the girls will understand how fast the game moves,” Bailey said. “That’s who we want to play. It will make us better.”

In the Newton match, freshman Piper Harris and sophomore Kamdyn Carr led the way with 5 kills each and junior Mackenzie Lucas added 3. Senior setter Mya DelaCruz provided 12 assists while sophomore Libero Adelenna Unzueta led in digs with 8.

As expected, the Maize South match was far and away the toughest for the Buffaloes. Three players – Harris, MiKayla Martinez (Sr.) and Lucas had two kills apiece. DelaCruz had six assists and Unzueta came up with six digs.

“What I’ve talked to them is getting used to the speed of the game,” Bailey said. “The more they see that the more they get adjusted to it. I think having seen it (speed) early will help them be better prepared down the stretch.”

The Liberal and Great Bend upcoming matches with WAC foes, is something Bailey is excited to see.

“Around here, especially WAC is everything as it should be,” Bailey said. “I know we’re going to bring our best and I think that they will notice the difference between where they think they are now, and another 48 hours. It’s going to be fun to watch them to work through it and to grow throughout the season.”

In the Thursday schedule at The Garden, the Buffaloes will open against Liberal’s Lady Reds at 4 p.m., then the two visiting schools match-up at 5 p.m. and the Buffs battle Great Bend, the No. 9-ranked preseason 5A team, in the concluding 6 p.m. match.