Garden City volleyball sweeps Ulysses, Dodge

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's MiKayla Martinez, left, knocks a Ulysses shot down on to the Tigers' side of the net for a point as she and teammate Mackenzie Lucas go up for a block Thursday during a match in a volleyball triangular at GCHS.

There were multiple reasons to celebrate Thursday night at The Garden when Garden City High School’s volleyball team hosted southwest Kansas foe Ulysses and Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City.

First, the teams were all decked out in special pink uniforms to honor Cancer Awareness and to raise funds for the local cancer center research teams. Second, it was Senior Night for the Buffs and it would be the final home matches for three seniors – Mya Delacruz, Jesy Foster and MiKayla Martinez.

Third, the Buffs had a successful night on the court, sweeping both opponents in straight sets – toppling Ulysses 25-16, 25-20, before capping off the evening with a 25-17, 28-26 win over the Red Demons of Dodge City.

The two victories improved the Buffs’ season record to 10-14 and saw them win four of five matches this past week.

Garden City High School's Mya Dela Cruz sets the ball to a teammate Thursday during a volleyball match in a triangular at GCHS.

“This is one of our favorite nights of the year,” said GCHS Head Coach Trista Bailey. “Joining forces with Ulysses and Dodge City to raise funds for our local cancer center is such a positive experience for our kids. We take a ton of pride in serving our community, and this is just one small way we help teach our kids the importance of giving back.”

Bailey said the evening got off to a sluggish start on the court for her youthful team, which has gone through sometimes painful growing pains this season with an all-new starting lineup from 2020.

“We were a little slow to start against Ulysses, but I thought overall we played well on the offensive side of things,” Bailey said. “Piper (freshman Harris) had a huge offensive night (21 kills in the 2 matches) and she really shined against Ulysses. Her passion is constantly inspiring those around her and she’s adapted to the varsity level better than we have ever asked.”

The match against Dodge City had its moments of drama, none more than in the second set, being down 22-24 and looking at a potential third tie-breaker set against the Red Demons. But they rallied to win 28-26 to end the night on a high note.

“We always get the best shot from teams in the WAC,” Bailey said. “Teams consistently play at a higher level when they see GC on the other side of the net, so we knew it would be a battle.”

Garden City High School's Piper Harris makes a kill in a match against Ulysses Thursday during a volleyball triangular at GCHS.

Bailey was pleased with the heart and competitiveness of her team in the final stages of the comeback win against Dodge.

“Our kids showed a ton of heart in the second set,” she said. “If we have been missing anything this season, it’s been determination, and we didn’t lack that tonight.”

Bailey was especially pleased for her three seniors, all of whom had limited or no varsity experience from a season ago.

“I’m really happy for the three seniors for getting a sweep in the last home matches of their career,” Bailey said. “On top of that, they all played so well. MiKayla had a big match against Dodge City, and that’s the fight we need from our seniors at this point in the season.”

Having won 5 of their last 7 matches (at one time being 5-12), Bailey sees brighter times ahead.

“That just shows that our kids are still being coachable and they still believe,” she said. “It seems to be heading in the right direction at the right time.”

That positive direction will be tested once again on Saturday when the Buffs travel to the tough McPherson Invitational, where they potentially could face multiple state-ranked teams. That tournament will be the final tune-up before the Buffs head to Hays on Oct. 16 to defend their 10-year dominance of the Western Athletic Conference championship.

In the middle match of the night, Ulysses took Dodge City in straight sets (25-16, 25-19).