With rain and possible tornadoes happening around the area, the Abilene Cowgirl volleyball team weathered a storm of their own as they got by the Lady Tigers of Clay Center for two NCKL wins.

Abilene won the opening match 25-20, 25-23 and then rallied late in the second set of match two for a 25-23 come from behind win after taking the first set f the second match 25-19.

Not playing as sharply as they did against Chapman last Thursday, the Cowgirls fought and battled for the two North Central Kansas League victories. They needed contributions from the entire varsity roster to get the wins on Tuesday night.

The Cowgirls took the lead in the opening set of the first match after a Jenna Hayes’ kill down the line and then two service points from Makenna McGivney to go up 7-5. Abilene maintained the lead throughout most of the first set as senior Chesney Sprinkle slammed a kill shot followed by another Hayes slam to push the Cowgirls up 20-12 in the opener. Hayes got two more points for the Cowgirls with another power shot and a point on serve and Abilene led 23-15. Sophomore middle blocker Emma Wildman slammed home the 24th point of the match and the Cowgirls won on a side out to take the first set 25-20.

The second set was back and forth throughout the entire match. Abilene jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Abilene director of athletics announced everyone needed to head to shelters as a tornado warning was issued for Abilene and Dickinson County. After nearly 20 minutes in the locker rooms, the match resumed with Clay Center going on a four-point rally to take a 4-3 lead. From there the score never varied more than two or three points until Sprinkle gave the Cowgirls a 12-8 lead with a power shot between two Clay Center defenders.

The Lady Tigers stayed in the set and battled back for a 17-17 tie before Abilene’s Autumn Fitzgeralds and Reagan Ditto had back-to-back kills to give Abilene a 19-17 advantage. Sprinkle and Ditto each slammed home points and the Cowgirls led 21-18. Back came the Tigers to work out a 22-22 tie. Wildman got a scoring block followed by a Cowgirl side out and Abilene led 24-22. Clay Center earned a point but then drilled the match-winning serve for the Cowgirls into the net.

“I feel like tonight we were a little slow in both matches,” Abilene head coach Jade Koch said. “I feel like we did not come out as on fire as we did against Chapman and so I feel like we regressed a little bit. I don’t know why that was. We played well in spurts like when Jenna (Hayes) got that kill shot down the line and then we had a stuff block.”

In the second match, Abilene jumped out to 4-0 lead before Clay Center came back for a 6-6 tie. Back and forth went this set being tied four more times before the Tigers put together a couple of kills to take a 13-11 lead midway through the first set. After the set was tied twice more, Fitzgeralds gets a slam that set the Cowgirls on a run at 17-16. Hayes added a couple of kills down the stretch and senior Beth Holmes powered over set point for a 25-19 Abilene win.

The final set was not pretty for the Cowgirls but they battled the Tigers as they trailed nearly the entire set. It took two outstanding hustle plays by several Cowgirls led by Holmes and Hayes to keep two plays alive and basically keep Abilene in the game. Sprinkle, Fitzgeralds and Hayes got slams to fall for points and after a net error by the Tigers, Abilene had tied the game at 23-23. It was only the second time the game had been tied. Sprinkle stepped up big for the final two Abilene points that gave the Cowgirls their first lead of the set and the win at 25-23.

“There wasn’t a lot of urgency to finish the match,” Koch said. “There wasn’t a lot of energy tonight. The girls didn’t give up and that’s one thing I told them that I was proud of them for not giving up. But we have to have an urgency that we didn’t have tonight. We can’t play relaxed if we don’t have the urgency. Clay Center was smart. They were finding holes and playing off our weaknesses all night. We couldn’t adjust quickly enough. They played smart against us.”

With the two wins, Abilene improves to 10-10 on the season and will now travel to Hays on Thursday for a quad at Hays High School.

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

Volleyball results:

Abilene defeats Clay Center 25-20, 25-23

Abilene defeats Clay Center 25-19, 25-23

Clay Center JV defeats Abilene 25-13, 25-22

Clay Center JV defeats Abilene 25-18, 25-11

Abilene Frosh defeats Clay Center 25-17, 25-9

Abilene Frosh defeats Clay Center 25-6, 25-9

Contact Ron Preston at sports@abilene-rc.com.

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