FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION DEPARTMENT
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – After rallying from behind for the majority of the evening, the Fort Hays State volleyball team came up one rally short Friday (Nov. 4), falling to Missouri Western in five sets. Four of the five sets went into the tiebreak, with a total of 38 ties and 11 lead changes in the match.
The Tigers fall to 22-8 on the year and 8-7 in MIAA play, tied for fifth in the conference standings. The Griffons are now 15-12 overall and 7-8 in the league with three matches to play.
Fort Hays State recorded 214 attack attempts on the night, the most in a match since 2013 (214 attempts, five-set loss, at Pittsburg State, 11/2). The Tigers held a 9-7 edge in the blocking category while recording a season-high 105 digs. FHSU was undefeated in five-set matches before tonight, now with a 4-1 record in matches that go the distance this season.
Sophomore Sydney Dixon recorded a pair of career-highs with 16 kills and 55 attack attempts. Crystal Whitten led the Tigers with 17 kills, adding 16 digs and one block. Rebekah Spainhour, Megan Anderson (two solo) and Callie Christensen (one solo) all recorded four total blocks on the night. Spainhour dropped in 13 kills and one service ace while Anderson reached double-digit kills for the 12th time this season at 10.
It was evident that this match would come down to the wire in the first set. Neither team could build any momentum, with the scoring margin hovering between one and three for the majority of the frame. The Tigers scored three-straight points for the first time in the match late in the first set to level the score at 23 after a Spainhour kill and multiple Griffon errors. An ace from Spainhour handed the Tigers their first lead of more than one point when it mattered most, securing the 26-24 victory.
The Griffons scored four of the first five points to take an early lead in the second set, maintaining that lead until a kill from Anderson put the Tigers up one, 17-16. The teams traded the lead five more times down the stretch, with neither side leading by more than two. A Griffon attack error handed the Tigers set point at 24-23, but a Tiger error kept the game alive. Dixon fought off a MWSU set point two points later with a kill, but the Griffons answered with two-straight kills to take set 27-25.
Missouri Western went on a big run out of the locker room to take a commanding five-point lead in the third set, scoring eight of the first 11 points to prompt a Kurt Kohler timeout. The Tigers were unable to mount a comeback in this frame, with the Griffons eventually building a nine-point lead (17-8), the largest of the match for either team. Although FHSU outscored the hosts 9-4 down the stretch, the deficit proved to be insurmountable, with the Griffons taking a 25-21 win on a Tiger error.
The never-say-die Tigers returned in the fourth set, fighting off three match point opportunities before stealing the 28-26 victory. MWSU once again built an early four-point lead, but the Tigers continued to chip away to soon take a 12-10 lead of their own. The Griffons answered with five-straight to regain the lead, one they would hold until the waning moments of the set. FHSU used a 6-1 run late in the game to tie the score at 23 behind three kills from Whitten. After the Tigers fought off the third Griffon match point with a kill from Christensen, back-to-back blocks from Christensen and Spainhour and then a solo from Christensen sent the match to a deciding fifth set.
The reoccurring theme of the match continued in the final frame, with the Griffons jumping out to an early lead before the Tigers clawed back into the thick of things. MWSU held an 8-4 lead when the teams traded sides and seemed to have the victory in the crosshairs, but a 5-1 Tiger run later in the frame closed the gap to one, 10-9. Consecutive blocks from Anderson and then Christensen and Anderson tied the score at 13, forcing a Griffon timeout. After the Tigers again fought off three match point opportunities, the Griffons came through on their fourth chance of the set (and seventh of the match) with a block to put the win on ice.
The Tigers will return to the floor at 3 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 5) when they face off with No. 21 Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo.