COUNCIL GROVE – The Abilene Cowgirl volleyball team, playing without starting outside hitter Autumn Fitzgeralds due to injury, fought back to finish second to Hesston at the Council Grove volleyball tournament Saturday.
With an adjusted lineup, the Cowgirls struggled for consistency in the first match of the day against Clearwater losing close matches 25-27, 24-26.
“In the first match the team was adjusting to changes I made in the offense and the new line up,” Abilene head coach Jade Koch said. “We struggled to mesh as a team in the second set, we were up 23-17 and Clearwater fought back to win 26-24. I was really disappointed in our ability to finish off the second set.”
Next the Cowgirls defeated Santa Fe Trail 25-21 and 25-23 and finally they won big over the host school, Council Grove, 25-8, 25-214 to finish pool play.
“With the exception of the first match of the day, the girls fought hard and adjusted well to the changes,” Koch said. “Sophomore Summer Samples came in at different times for the team and played many different roles to us stay in matches. I pulled junior Olivia Crist up from the JV to fill Autumn’s slot.”
Koch highlighted the play of senior setter Beth Holmes who had a combined 93 assists, five kills and 16 digs during the day. She also acknowledged Jenna Hayes as being dynamic on the right side to lead the team with a total of 39 kills and she had eight blocks. Sophomore Emma Wildman was second in kills with 33 and she had five blocks. Junior Reagan Ditto and senior Chesney Sprinkle ended with 22 kills each and Sprinkle had 12 huge blocks according to the coach. Koch also praised the play of senior Libero Makenna McGivney with 38 digs to lead the team while Ditto and sophomore Joy Clemence with 19 and 18 respectively.
In the semifinals, the Cowgirls defeated North Central Kansas League foe Wamego 21-25, 25-16, 25-15 to reach the championship match against Hesston.
Hesston won the tournament over the Cowgirls by scores 25-20 and 25-18.
“In the championship match against Hesston, it was difficult to get a block on the ball,” Koch said. “Hesston had some really great hitters and we were not hitting aggressively. Not only did we have way too many forced errors, but we would send over tips or dig able attacks, allowing them to easily set up their offense.
“Hesston is a great team and I am glad we had the opportunity to play them, Koch added. “I feel like we learned a lot today as a team and can use our losses to better improve and prepare for the rest of the season.”
Abilene improves to 18-12 on the season and will look to wrap up the regular season with a dual against Marysville tonight and the Abilene Invitational Tournament Saturday morning in the high school gym.
The Cowgirls are still in the hunt for at least a share of the NCKL crown with wins over Marysville.