LADY DRAGONS ADVANCE AFTER SWEEP OF CLOUD COUNTY
One night after a series of upsets upended the Region VI Division I Volleyball Tournament, the top-seeded Hutchinson Community College volleyball team took care of business in its opening-round sweep of Cloud County on Wednesday night at the Sports Arena.
Sophomores Shayne Haley and Jade Nelson combined for 25 kills as the 17th-ranked Lady Dragons defeated the eighth-seeded Thunderbirds 25-16, 25-21, 25-19 to advance to the Region VI Final Four.
The 2012 Jayhawk West champion Lady Dragons (24-8) will meet fourth-seeded Barton (13-18) at Newman University in Wichita at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Sixth-seed Garden City will meet seventh-seed Dodge City at noon in the other opening-round match at Noon.
Haley finished with a season-high 13 kills, while Nelson had 12 kills to lead the Lady Dragons, who had 46 kills and nine attack errors in the Region VI opener. HCC had to make some adjustments as sophomore middle blocker Gabby Rushton wasn't available on Wednesday. HCC out-blocked Cloud County 6-0.
Freshman Mariah Dickson finished with eight kills and three digs, while freshman Teresa Wade had five kills, two blocks and seven digs.
Sophomore setter Scout Heizer finished with 21 assists and sophomore setter Ashlyn Westerman had 19 assists. Freshman libero led HCC defensively with 16 digs. Freshman Taylor Karcher had seven digs.
Cloud County (4-30), which dropped its 16th consecutive match, had 30 kills and seven attack errors. Jordan Krohn had a team-high eight kills. Kendra Zabokrtsky had seven, while Erin Terrell and Autumn Slater had five kills each.
Hutchinson opened the match quickly, scoring the first five points, but the Thunderbirds were playing free and easy and pushed the Lady Dragons. A Zabokrtsky kill pulled Cloud County within 14-13, but Wade stopped the 5-1 T-Bird run with a kill. At 15-14, Nelson's kill started a run of four straight and 10-2. Leading 19-16, HCC closed the set with six consecutive kills by Nelson, Haley, two from Dickson and two from Haley on points 24 and 25. The Lady Dragons pounded down 18 kills on only two attack errors.
Krohn and Zabokrtsky were tough for Cloud County in the second set, combing for seven of the T-Birds' 12 kills in the set. Cloud County had four two-point leads in the second set, the final one coming from a Zabokrtsky kill to make it 15-13. HCC then went on a 7-0 run, concluding the spurt with a double block by Dickson and Megan Heier for a 20-15 Lady Dragon lead. A Wade kill pushed HCC to the brink and 24-18, but the Thunderbirds scored three straight before a Dickson kill gave HCC a 2-0 match lead. Haley pounded down six kills in the set.
A Westerman service ace gave HCC a 6-3 third-set lead, but Cloud County wouldn't go away. A setter dump by Prairie Marlier capped a7-4 run that pulled the T-Birds within 11-10. Then a service ace by Ariel Buhr gave Cloud County a 17-16 lead. Dickson and Wade teamed up for a stuff block started a Lady Dragon run of four unanswered points to lead 20-17 after a Dickson kill. Cloud County pulled within 21-19, but Nelson had three kills during a final 6-0 run to finish off the match. The Lady Dragons had 15 kills and three attack errors in the final set. Nelson had five kills, while Dickson contributed three kills and a block.
When play begins at Wichita on Saturday, the Lady Dragons will be going after a sixth Region VI championship in team history, the first since 2009.