ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
The Tabor volleyball team completed the first half of its conference schedule this past week, with a home match against McPherson and road matches against Bethel and Friends.
McPherson-Tabor defeated the Bulldogs in three, 30-23, 30-16, 30-26.
“We played much better in this match,” coach Amy Ratzlaff said. “I felt like our offense was running much more smoothly, like it had been.
“I think we hit the ball a lot harder too, which is what we’ve tried to focus on,” she added. “I was very pleased.”
Sara McAllister keyed the offense with 46 of 110 sets. Primary beneficiaries were Angela Kroeker, with 14 kills and 38 attempted spikes, and freshman Staci Whitcomb, who was credited with 12 kills in 23 attempts.
Whitcomb, filling in for the injured Erin Loewen, also led the team with 25 digs; the team registered 63.
“Staci stepped in for Erin and did a great job,” Ratzlaff said. “She can hit the ball and played a good all around match.
“It was good that we could plug her into the lineup without disruption and she could go with the flow,” she added. “Erin brings something different to the court and we miss her because she’s a great volleyball player, but Staci did a great job.”
Service receptions was another strong point in the match, as Tabor handled 63 serves while committing just two errors.
Whitcomb led the team with 20 attempts.
Whitcomb also led the team in service attempts. She and Jo Love each recorded three aces.
“We probably hit the ball harder than we have in the last couple weeks,” Ratzlaff said. “That made for a more exciting match and caused them to commit more errors.
“Everybody played better. It was more fun and the women enjoy playing in matches like this a lot more.”
Bethel-The Bluejays got a huge road victory Thursday over conference rival Bethel, winning a grueling five-game match, 30-24, 30-25, 28-30, 30-32, 15-7.
Sara McAllister had 60 assists in 193 attempts in five games.
“That’s an incredible amount in one match,” Coach Amy Ratzlaff said. “Especially in a high-stress match.”
Staci Whitcomb recorded 21 kills in the match.
Whitcomb was followed in kills by Angela Kroeker, Shannon Kroeker and Raschelle Regier with 12 each. As a team, Tabor recorded 70 kills.
“Raschelle had a great night,” Ratzlaff said. “She had one of her best nights of blocking with nine, and she also hit well.”
The team was credited with 116 digs for the match, led by Whitcomb with 25, followed by Angela Kroeker with 22, Jill Hein 19 and Carmen Hein 16.
The Bluejays also had their serving game working, attempting 132, nailing three aces, and committing just five errors.
Whitcomb and Carmen Hein led in serves received with 26 and 24, respectively.
“The place was packed,” Ratzlaff said. “Just like the football team beating Kansas Wesleyan was the ultimate win, going into a full house, this was our KW. It was a very intense match.”
Ratzlaff credited her team with starting quickly.
“Bethel didn’t have their offensive game going early, but we did,” she said. “I thought we could have won the third game, but we kind of let our guard down, and by then, Bethel was in high gear.
“But that created a more competitive match,” she added. “It’s going to be intense when you have that highly competitive of a match, and we expected that. We knew going in it wasn’t going to be handed to us by any means. We had to work for it.”
Ratzlaff said the women knew the fifth and deciding game comes quickly and there isn’t time to think about what you should or shouldn’t have done in the prior four games.
“They just had to go out and battle, and be very focused for a very short period of time,” she said. “The fact they came back and won the fifth game shows a lot of maturity and focus.”
Ratzlaff said fan support was “phenomenal, as always.”
“That helps the momentum to feel like you’ve got that many people cheering you on,” she said.
Friends-Tabor concluded its first tour of duty on a down note, losing to Friends in Wichita, 26-30, 28-30, 26-30.
“I think we could make the excuse that we had a letdown after the Bethel game, but I don’t know if that would be valid,” coach Amy Ratzlaff said. “We just didn’t play. Everybody played a mediocre game.”
Staci Whitcomb led in several statistical categories, including attacks (27) and kills (16).
“Whitcomb had a great week of volleyball,” Ratzlaff said. She did very well, but everyone really played middle-of-the-road volleyball at Wichita.”
Sara McAllister once again led the team in assists with 40.
“We’ve won games with worse stats than this,” Ratzlaff said. “But our offense wasn’t going well and that led to them being able to attack us even more.”
Tabor recorded seven aces in the match; Jill Hein led the way with three.
“I guess if I had to put my finger on one thing, it would be our blocking,” Ratzlaff said about the loss. “It was very ineffective. We didn’t get our blocks done, so our defense had to make other compensations and that just didn’t get it done.
“We should have been up for this game, where we were tied with Friends at the top of the conference, yet we just couldn’t get it going.”
With the loss, Tabor finished the first round of conference play with a 7-2 conference mark, and a 10-10 overall record.
“I think both of our losses, we just played poorly,” Ratzlaff said. “After our performance at Friends, I told my team I don’t think I even want to win when we play like that. It’ll make us think our bad habits are all right and I don’t want us to think that way.
“We just did not play to win or deserve to win this match.”