Volleyball improves to 2-0 in conference play

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Volleyball improves to 2-0 in conference play

Story by Sara

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A battle between the Baker University volleyball team and Graceland University caused nerves to rise Tuesday in Collins Center as the two conference foes fought for momentum throughout the match.

The offenses of both teams were on display, but the Wildcats came through when it counted. Baker stole the deciding fifth set from Graceland, advancing to 2-0 in conference play.

Baker fell behind early, dropping the opening set 25-23. However, the Wildcats responded by taking the second set 25-21.

The team jumped out to an early lead behind the serving of senior Savannah Smith, who had five aces on the night. Smith served for eight unanswered points during the set, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 14-5.

Baker seemed to be controlling the pace of the game, but the Yellowjackets never backed down and inched their way back into the game. A tip by senior Jana Boss into Graceland’s backcourt late in the set extended the Wildcats lead to 24-21. Graceland then ended the set with a hit that landed behind the backline.

After allowing Graceland to crawl back into the second set, Baker answered with a 25-16 win in the third. Senior setter Jana Boss spread the ball across the floor, helping five hitters collect kills during the match.

In the fourth set, Graceland served for seven consecutive points, as the Wildcats struggled with serve-receive. The Yellowjackets capitalized on Baker’s mistakes and extended the game into a fifth set.

The teams fought for possession of the lead early, but once the Wildcats took control at 6-5 the team never looked back, stealing the set 15-12.

Freshman Danielle French ended the match with a kill into Graceland’s court, allowing Baker to remain perfect in conference play.

Not only did French end the match, but she also led the Wildcats at the net with 15 kills and nine assisted blocks. Boss added nine kills of her own and contributed 37 assists.

Head coach Kathy Allen said this was one of the best matches she has seen Boss play during her career.

“I think she really wanted to win this game,” Allen said. “She showed a lot of leadership and demonstrated a lot of leadership out there on the court. All the girls played well, but Jana was particularly effective tonight.”

With the win, the Wildcats advanced to 10-5 on the season, and were 6-1 during their seven-game home stand.

Despite the Wildcats’ youth, French is excited about where the team is at this point in the season.

“We have been able to mesh pretty well,” French said. “We are starting to figure it out and we are definitely learning how to start the game off strong rather than coming from behind.”

Junior Crystal Simons, who transferred from Johnson County Community College, agreed that the team is starting to learn the pace of the game at the NAIA level.

“We have two freshmen middles who … have gotten used to it really quick and are improving a lot,” Simons said. “I feel like we have all adapted pretty well to each other and know what to expect from each other.”

The Wildcats will go on the road this weekend, as they play four matches in the MidAmerica Nazarene Tournament Friday and Saturday in Olathe.