Bluejays nab first win

Tabor blockers Cortney Janzen (left) and Jordan Crosson deny Bethel?s Kari Thimm a shot down the line and force her to direct her attempt into the teeth of the Bluejay defense. Andrew Ottoson / Free Press

The Tabor College volleyball team played its first home games of the season, defeating Ottawa with little difficulty to break into the win column of the standings Thursday after losing a tooth-and-nail battle to Bethel Tuesday.

The Bluejays (1-2) used a balanced attack to carve out a sweep of Ottawa (25-11, 28-26, 25-18), with primary hitter Ashley Cohlmia leading the way. Cohlmia recorded 11 kills, and four others put away at least five apiece: Jordan Crosson (8), Carly Kroeker (5), Cortney Janzen (5), Gina Hullet (5), and Heather Witham (5).

?It was a good game full of good volleyball,? coach Amy Ratzlaff said. ?We were able to stay in our system, and our hitting percentages and kills per game were both up against them.

?It?s a good sign that we are taking a step forward,? she added. ?We still have a long list of things that we?re still working on so that we?ll be able to do that against every team.?

The second game of the set turned into a battle for the Bluejays?and was perhaps more of a battle against themselves than a battle against the opponent.

?We seemed to commit errors in chunks,? Ratzlaff said. ?We?re trying to cut that down. One error is always going to be there, but we don?t need multiple errors in a row.

?So I think we got ourselves into a situation where we did not execute our offense well because we were out-of-system more than we should have been,? she said.

After taking an 8-4 lead, the Bluejays found themselve in a 13-13 tie on their way to trailing 16-19. Tabor rallied to tie it at 20-20, and neither team led by more than a point until Cohlmia buried the 27-25 game winner with a hard, sharply angled spike that traveled almost parallel to the net on its way to touching down on an unguarded acre just inside the perimeter boundary.

The Bluejays recovered their form midway through the third game, turning a 16-16 tie into a 25-18 win as the Ottawa attack degenerated into a parade of errors.

?I think we did a lot more responding to Ottawa in the second game than we did taking care of our own business,? Ratzlaff said.

?We hit 25 percent and averaged 13 kills per game, but it felt like we executed our attack more in the first and third games than in the second.?

With 10 aces, serving was no small part of the Bluejay success against Ottawa, and Ratzlaff cited serving for being ?much improved? compared to the previous match.

Bethel?Behind the serves of Mandi Phillips, a freshman from Halstead, Tabor vaulted out to a 6-2 lead over the Threshers in the first game of the Bluejays first home loss (21-25, 19-25, 25-23, 24-26).

Tabor?s initial surge slowed, allowing Bethel to tie it at 9-all en route to a 12-15 deficit. But Tabor rallied, using a Heather Witham kill to even it at 17-17. But Bethel scored the next three points to secure a 1-0 lead.

?Around 25 percent of Bethel?s points were our service errors,? Ratzlaff said. ?That?s a lot in a game that?s so tight. With both the Bethany and Bethel games, we?ve had four freshmen on the court and with young players thinking so much about all of the other things they?ve got to do, the serving wasn?t there.?

The Threshers rode that wave of momentum all the way through the second game, leading 10-5 and 17-7 before the Bluejays began to execute their gameplan efficiently.

Bethel was, perhaps, fortunate to finish it off, as the Bluejays play was markedly better from the outset in the third game, as Audrey Schellenberg scored five straight points with her serve to force a Thresher timeout.

Tabor went on to take leads of 13-6 and 15-8 and held on to win by two on a kill by Witham.

The contest came to a boil in the fourth game, as neither team led by more than two points with the exceptions of a short-lived 9-6 Tabor lead and a 3-point Bethel run that gave the Threshers a 4-point lead, 17-21, entering the endgame.

Ashley Colhmia then sparked a 5-point run for Tabor, smashing a kill to win the serve at 20-24. Using her jump-serve to near-perfection, Cohlmia rolled out four consecutive rally points to knot it at 24-24 on a kill by Cortney Janzen.

But Bethel stole the next point and blocked down Tabor?s counterattack to secure the game, 24-26, and the match.

?It?s a shame that we did not find a way to win that fourth game, because with the crowd we had behind us that night, I think we would have won the fifth game as well,? Ratzlaff said.

Coming?Tabor (1-6 overall) plays Wednesday at St. Mary in Leavenworth, and plays a non-conference tournament in Bethany, Okla. over the weekend. The Bluejays return to the home court Thursday Oct. 2 host McPherson.

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