Buffalo volleyball goes 2-3 at McPherson

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Mackenzie Lucas, left, knocks the ball back off a Ulysses shot for a point Oct. 7 as she and teammate Kamdyn Carr go up for a block during a match in a volleyball triangular at GCHS.

MCPHERSON - It certainly has been a rocky road of a 2021 schedule for the Garden City High School volleyball team.

The Buffs, with no returning starters, have experienced growth pains throughout a 12-17 season which at one time was a 5-12 record. The recent 7-5 mark has given Coach Trista Bailey something to hang her hat on as the Buffs head into the final regular-season tournament and then postseason play in two weeks.

The latest competition came at the McPherson Invitational on Saturday, typically one of the toughest meets for the Buffs each season and this time was no different. They posted a 2-3 record and placed sixth.

Three of those setbacks came against teams that are ranked in their respective classes by the Kansas Volleyball Association. The losses came against No. 2-ranked Class 2A Garden Plain (16-25, 15-25), No. 2-ranked Class 4A McPherson (18-25, 17-25) and to No. 8-ranked Class 6A Hutchinson (12-25, 19-25).

The two triumphs came against Class 5A unranked teams, Pittsburg (25-20, 25-18) and Goddard High (25-14, 30-32, 25-20).

Bailey’s young squad will have the entire upcoming week to prepare for the Western Athletic Conference championship on Saturday in Hays. That round-robin competition will see the Buffs seeking to extend their decade-long dominance of the WAC tourney as they look for their 11th consecutive title.

It might be the tallest order of the past decade in the WAC meet as the Buffaloess have already played each of their four conference opponents this season, with losses coming to Hays and Great Bend, a win over Dodge City and a split in two matches with Liberal.

In a season with her most inexperienced team of her five years as the head coach, Bailey’s squad has 10 losses to teams that are ranked. Two against Goddard-Eisenhower, two against Maize South, one with Derby, two against Hutchinson, the Garden Plain and McPherson recent setbacks and a loss to Colorado’s No. 1-ranked Class 3A team, Lamar, back in September.

The opening match Saturday against Garden Plain saw the Buffs’ Kamdyn Carr record 5 kills, Piper Harris 2 service aces, Mya Delacruz 11 assists and Jesy Foster 7 digs to pace the main stats categories. The McPherson match had Harris with 8 kills, Delacruz with 18 assists and MiKayla Martinez with 4 digs.

In the victory over Pittsburg, Harris recorded 12 kills, Delacruz 24 assists and Harris 8 digs. The three-set marathon win over Goddard had Harris with 14 kills and 11 digs, Carr with 10 kills, Martinez with 2 service aces, Delacruz with 32 assists and Taylor Mesa with 8 digs.

The finale with Hutch saw Harris lead with 6 kills, Delacruz with 15 assists and Martinez with 4 digs.

The Garden Plain, McPherson and Pittsburg matches came in pool play and placed the Buffs into the Consolation Semifinals against Goddard where they produced their most dramatic performance of the day with the three-set triumph. The Hutch loss came in the fifth-sixth place match.

Despite going 2-3, Bailey still sees many upsides to the recent performance of her team.

“These kids can compete, but inconsistency hurts us as it does with any young team,” Bailey said. “To be honest, we have improved in so many ways. I believe this group can still accomplish this year’s goal and peak at the right time.”

Following next weekend’s WAC tournament, the Buffs will wait for their seeding into the 18-team Class 6A sub-state tournament on Oct. 23. There will be two, four-team brackets and two five-team brackets assigned with the top four records all getting home courts to determine the four west winners to advance to the Class 6A state tournament on Oct. 29 and 30. Currently, Garden City is in the No. 8 seed position heading into the WAC championship. Topeka-Washburn Rural, Wichita Northwest, Hutchinson and Derby are currently the top four seeds based upon season records.