FHSU SPORTS INFORMATION DEPARTMENT
WARRENSBURG, Mo. – A strong 2016 season came to a close for the Fort Hays State volleyball team Tuesday evening (Nov. 15), as it fell to 16th-ranked Central Missouri in four sets in the first round of the MIAA Tournament. The Tigers finish the year with a 25-9 record, losing less than 10 matches for the first time since 2004 and reaching 25 wins for just the third time since moving to the NCAA Division II level. The Jennies, 23-9 on the year, advance to face off with conference champion Nebraska-Kearney in the MIAA semifinals on Friday.
The Tigers tallied 13 blocks in the loss, bringing their season total to 290 total blocks, breaking the program’s rally scoring era record (287.5, 2012). FHSU posted a better hitting percentage than the Jennies (.155-.150) and recorded just one fewer point in the match. The Tigers were the only lower seed to take a match in the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Tournament.
Fort Hays State set the tone early in the match, scoring six-straight points behind multiple blocks and Jennie miscues. The early advantage helped the Tigers lead for much of the opening set, but UCM slowly crept closer before tying the score at 18. The Jennies grabbed their first lead of the night three points later, 20-19. FHSU fought off one set point before a Jennie kill secured their 25-23 victory.
After falling behind by four early in the second frame, 7-3, the Tigers used an 8-0 run to quickly jump in front by four themselves. A block from Rebekah Spainhour and Sydney Dixon brought the rally to a close, prompting a UCM timeout. The Jennies started chipping away out of the huddle, eventually taking a 16-15 lead after five-straight points. Fort Hays State took the lead once more, 17-16, before three-consecutive Jennie points gave the home team the lead for good. A Crystal Whitten kill and a Jennie error helped the Tigers fight off two set points, but the Jennies bounced back on the third try to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Tigers didn’t go down without a fight out of the break, swinging at a .367 clip to win the third set convincingly, 25-16. FHSU scored seven of the first 10 points in the set behind multiple kills from Spainhour and Callie Christensen before the home team rattled off four straight to tie things up at 7. After trading the next few points, the Tigers stretched a 10-9 lead into a six-point advantage by going on a 9-4 run, prompting a Jennie timeout. Back-to-back blocks helped the Tigers capture five of the last six points to win the set, finished off by a strong kill from Whitten.
After the sides went back-and-forth to open the fourth set, a 6-0 run for the Jennies gave them an 11-5 lead. As soon as it appeared the Jennies would hold on to seal the victory, the Tigers went on another 8-0 run to tie things up at 17. The rally would end up just short, however, as UCM went on to score eight of the last nine points in the match to wrap things up.
Whitten posted her 18th double-double of the season, setting a new career high with 29 digs while adding 15 kills to lead the team in both categories. Dixon added 11 kills and a career-high five blocks, while Megan Anderson contributed 10 kills and also had five blocks (two solo). Christensen tallied a game-high seven blocks (one solo) to finish with 149 total blocks on the year, five shy of the rally scoring era record. Spainhour posted nine blocks, two blocks and four digs on the night. while Hannah Wagy tossed up 41 assists in the match, adding two blocks and two kills.