The Dodge City Red Demons volleyball team fell both to the Liberal Redskins and the Garden City Lady Buffaloes Tuesday night.
It was the last time the Red Demons will play at home in the 2017 regular season.
The night started off with a match between the Red Demons and the Liberal High School Redskins. The match appeared to start promisingly for the Red Demons. After trailing 1-0 in the first set, the Red Demons tied it at 1-1. They they took the lead at 2-1 and made it 3-1. Consecutive points by the Redskins tied the set at 3-3, but the Red Demons ran away with the lead after taking it back at 4-3. They went on to win the first set 25-18.
Set two was nearly the exact opposite. Liberal again took a 1-0 lead, and Dodge City again tied it at 1-1. This time, however, Liberal charged ahead, scoring the next five points to go up 6-1. Liberal ran away with set two, winning 25-12.
The last set was the closest. There were six lead-changes, and the score was tied more times than in first two sets combined. As the scores mounted, the teams battled. Typical volleyball sets end when a team scores 25 points, however rules require the victor to win by two. Liberal eventually won, winning the set in extra points, 27-25.
Liberal won the match in three sets by scores 18-25, 25-12, 27-25.
“(It was) just heartbreaking for them really,” Red Demons head coach Amy Fleener said. “To be so close and really to have played pretty well. In the first set and the third set of that match we played pretty well. (We) strung together a sequence of volleys, chased down some balls that we don’t typically chase down.”
Next up for the Red Demons was a match against the Garden City Lady Buffaloes.
That match was clearly tougher, as the Buffaloes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first set and a 3-0 lead in the second one before the Red Demons got a point. The Buffaloes never trailed in either set, and never led in set two by any less than two points. Only once in either set did the Red Demons narrow the lead to just one point, when they made the score 3-2 in set one.
The Buffaloes won the match in straight sets, winning 25-15, 25-15.
“Garden City’s the fastest offense that we’ve played all year, and it showed,” Fleener said. “It took us a while to read the ball, to get up on the block. But (blocking) has consistently been our strength.”
Fleener said the team continues to struggle with consistency and confidence.
“(When) we think the game’s going south, we let it go south,” Fleener said. “When we don’t think we can compete, we don’t.”
Fleener said the team is talented and athletic, but is missing something.
“(They’re) a group of great girls, athletic girls, I love coaching them; there’s just not one of them that steps up and says ‘Game’s on the line, I’m gonna make a play for you,’” Fleener said. “They’re still just hedging their bets and looking for somebody else to do that.”
While she would have attributed that as possibly being due to having a young team, Fleener said she can’t anymore because the team’s starting rotation includes a senior, four juniors and a sophomore in the starting six.
“We’re not so young anymore,” Fleener said.
The losses came at a particularly-precarious time for the Red Demons, whose schedule going forward affords them no easier matches. The next two events, which include another Tri and the Western Athletic Conference event, are both hosted by the very schools that beat Dodge City Tuesday night.
The Red Demons head to Garden City, Kansas on Oct. 5, and then to Liberal, Kansas Oct. 14.
An emotional night
It was also an emotional night for one of the Red Demons players: Senior Jessica Olivarez.
Just before her team played Garden City Tuesday night, Olivarez was recognized by Dodge City High School and thanked for her contributions to the program.
As one of two seniors on the roster, Tuesday night was Olivarez’s last night playing at home for the Dodge City High School volleyball team. The team’s other senior, Brianna Buller, was absent Tuesday night due to illness.
“I’m very, very pleased with her,” Fleener said. “She had a great summer, her attitude’s been good, her leadership as far as what she’s telling the girls and talking to the girls; you can tell this season’s very important to her. She’s played well this year, she’s played very well, and I thought she played well tonight.”
Olivarez said her last home matches were very intense, but made great because of the girls around her.
“I love the girls I play with and I’m just glad I got to play with them my last games,” Olivarez said. “They make it very enjoyable and just so much fun.”
With two tri’s, the WAC event, and possibly Sub-State and State tournaments looming, Olivarez said she just hopes the team can play to its potential and maybe win a few more games.
“We’ve definitely have gotten a lot better than we were last-year, and I’m just very proud of them,” Olivarez said.
Olivarez said she hopes to attend Wichita State after she graduates. She isn’t sure if she’ll play volleyball when she gets there.
The Red Demons will continue their season Oct. 5 with a Triangular in Garden City, Kansas.