The Dodge City Conquistadors opened their first home volleyball tournament with a loss Friday afternoon, losing to Butler in five sets by scores of 25-22, 12-25, 22-25, 25-22 and 9-15.
It was a tough loss for Dodge City, which was coming off a straight-sets road defeat at the hands of Seward County Community College Wednesday night.
Dodge City head coach Kamri Nehls said there was some improvement from Wednesday’s match to Friday’s. In particular the team came out stronger in Friday’s match she said. Butler, however, is an opponent Dodge City tends to play long matches with for some unknown reason.
“We always have gone to five sets with them,” Nehls said. “I don’t know what it is between us.”
This was the third straight time the two teams had played to a full fives sets dating back to last season. In 2016, the teams split the series, with Dodge City winning when the teams played in Towanda, Kansas near the end of last season and with Butler winning when the teams played in Dodge City, Kansas earlier in the season.
After taking the lead 14-13 in set one, Dodge City never relinquished it, winning the set 25-22.
Set two was a whole different story.
“That second set was what got us though, again,” Nehls said.
Butler went on a tear from the get-go in set two, opening an 8-0 lead before Dodge City made it 8-1. The closest Dodge City ever got to tying Butler was when they narrowed the lead to 10-6. Butler won that set 25-12.
It was far from the first time Dodge City had lost the second set of a match this season.
Counting Friday night’s match against Butler, the Conquistadors are 5-10 in second sets this season. The Conquistadors have won six matches by 3-1 scores this season. The lone loss in three of those six wins has been in set two.
“Second set’s our kryptonite,” Nehls said. “We never play well our second set.”
Freshman middle blocker Rachel Slattery said it was a tough loss on the team.
“(In the) fourth set we came out and played good,” Slattery said. “Then to lose it like that in the fifth was tough. But we see them again, so we’ll get them next time.”
The team fought hard, pulling to within four after trailing by eight in set two, and at multiple points taking the lead in set three despite falling behind 3-0 in the opening points of that set.
The loss to Butler came largely from the team getting in their own heads too much, Slattery said.
“We were trying not to make all those little mistakes, and that kind of makes you make those extra little mistakes,” Slattery said. “That hurt us a lot.”
Nehls said the team was so determined not to make mistakes that it actually caused them to play more defensive and less aggressive.
“We fought a lot harder this match,” Nehls said. “But it’s just those little mistakes; they add up and when you put them back-to-back a team takes advantage of that and then they run with it.”
The team doesn’t lack physical talent though, Nehls said.
“Our physical game is there, we just need to get out of our own heads and go out there and play consistent volleyball for an entire game.
Later that night, the Conquistadors beat Labette Community College 3-1.
The Dodge City Invitational Tournament continues Saturday, with Dodge City taking the floor against Trinidad State College at 10 a.m. and Allen County Community College at 2 p.m.