ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERICA FAST
Tabor’s “midget team” is off to a strong start after a week of six volleyball matches.
Coach Amy Ratzlaff told her “small but mighty” Bluejays, a team with only one player at 6 -foot, to be as pesky and persistent as they could this weekend when they went up against some of the toughest competition they will see this season.
The Bluejays traveled to Branson, Mo., to compete in the College of the Ozarks Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s an incredible tournament,” Ratzlaff said. “Full of teams that play volleyball like nothing we’ve ever seen here. They’re big teams that have big, huge hitters. Tabor has never made it out of the bottom brackets.”
This is the fifth year Tabor has competed in the tournament.
This year Tabor more than came out of the bottom bracket; they won all but one of their matches for the weekend, placing them second overall.
Tabor defeated Bacone College, Muskogee, Okla., Friday, 30-15, 30-17, 30-21.
“The Bacone game was just a good way to get started,” Ratzlaff said. “They weren’t as tough as some of the teams there, just because they’re a first-year program. But they still had some big hitters and we played really well that match.”
Adri Friesen had three blocks, while Tesha Werth had nine digs and Carmen Hein had seven. Angela Kroeker led the team with 12 kills and Sara Haggard contributed four serving aces.
Tabor then battled the College of the Ozarks, a solid team that has won the tournament in the past. But this time Tabor prevailed: 30-18, 30-28, 29-31, 30-21.
Kroeker had 15 kills and 20 digs; Werth had 14 kills and 20 digs; Haggard had 46 assists for the match; Laura Campbell had six blocks while Erin Loewen contributed another four.
Tabor battled William Jewel for three hours before prevailing in five games: 34-32, 28-30, 21-30, 30-28, 15-8.
As a team, the Bluejays attacked more than 200 times, with 60 kills and 100 digs. Campbell had 16 kills and Loewen had 13; Werth had 25 digs, Kroeker 19, Loewen 18, Hein 14. Werth also had four aces and Haggard three. Campbell added six blocks.
“It was probably the most exciting match I could have asked for,” Ratzlaff said. “My girls have finally learned they are good, and if they just make themselves do it, they are going to be able to win whatever match they put their mind to.”
On Saturday, Tabor faced St. Gregory’s University’s 6-foot front line with tired legs and, according to Ratzlaff, just never got into the game.
Tabor lost in three games: 16-30, 22-30, 13-30. The Bluejays will have a chance at a rematch when St. Gregory’s comes to Hillsboro Oct. 6.
Tabor took on John Brown University next, a fundamentally sound team and consistently the winner or runner-up at the tournament.
Tabor took the match in five hard-fought games: 31-29, 30-19, 22-30, 24-30, 15-10.
“We played the smartest, fastest volleyball game I’ve ever seen us play,” Ratzlaff said. “It was phenomenal to see. I wish our home crowd could have seen that game; they would have been going crazy.”
For the second year in a row, Werth was named to the all-tournament team. Tabor has had players named to the all-tournament team only three times.
Tabor also took care of business in conference play when they hosted McPherson for their season opener last Wednesday. They easily overcame the Bulldogs in three games: 30-19, 30-24, 30-18.
The Bluejays will do conference battle again this week, having played St. Mary’s at home on Tuesday and facing Sterling away on Thursday.