Two sets into its match Saturday afternoon, the Barton Community College volleyball team was in good shape.
The Lady Cougars had won the opening two sets in the closest of fashions, but during a day when just about every set went to the wire, it was Cloud County that left the Barton Gym with the win in the five-set thriller.
The Thunderbirds won the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference West battle 24-26, 24-26, 25-23, 25-17, 15-12. The loss all but assured the Lady Cougars will now be on the road to open Region VI play next month.
“When you win or lose by two points it has to be said that we had our chances, but finishing is what it is all about, and we came up two points short,” Barton head coach Phil Shoemaker said.
The Lady Cougars used an 8-1 run in the opening set to get the advantage and led by five much of the set.
Barton was the verge of putting the set away, leading 24-20, before Cloud gave a glimpse of what was to come by scoring four straight to even the match at 24-all.
The Lady Cougars, however, held off the charge with the next two points for the 26-24 win.
Barton again had control of the next set, building an 18-10 lead on the visitors from the north.
But, like the opening set, Cloud rallied.
The Thunderbirds went on a 7-1 run to cut the lead to 19-17 and eventually overtook the Lady Cougars at 24-23 with a chance to win the set. Barton showed some fortitude to close the match. The Lady Cougars scored the final three points and escaped with another 26-24 win.
The third set saw Barton put itself in position to win the match. The Lady Cougars took an early led in the contest and were still in control midway through with a 15-11 lead. But Cloud tied it 18-all and used a late run to win the match 25-23.
After a quick 5-1 lead for Barton in fourth set, Cloud took control.
The Thunderbirds tied it at 8-all and pulled away for a 21-14 lead on the way to the easiest set win of the day for either team in the 25-17 win.
That set up the second straight five-set Jayhawk West match at the Barton Gym. And for the second straight time, the Lady Cougars were on the short end.
Barton took a 6-4 led then fell behind 9-6 following a 5-0 Thunderbird run.
But Barton battled back to even the game.
The contest was still tied at 12-all, but Cloud closed out the match with three straight for the 15-12 and the match.
The numbers for Barton were impressive in the opening set and slid downhill after that.
Barton had 19 kills to just four errors in that opener then fell to 17 kills with 11 errors.
By the third set the Lady Cougars were down to 13 kills and had just eight kills to seven errors in the fourth set.
“We played hard for the most part and defensively we again put up some pretty big numbers both in digs and blocking,” Shoemaker said. “Our two major areas of need are offensive in remaining aggressive, creating movement, set selection, and the psychology of winning.
“Something which doesn’t appear to come easily or naturally to this particular group. We will continue to improve in these areas.”
Jenna Reid and Emily Deterding led Barton with 14 and 13 kills followed by Jessie Sewell with 11. Casey Friesen had 31 assists and Laykn Rowden 19 to pace the Lady Cougars.
Mykela Riedl again led the Lady Cougars in digs with 21 followed by Tahje Ochs with 18. Reid and Sewell each had 5 blocks to pace the Lady Cougars.
Barton still has four matches left for positioning in the Jayhawk and could see the Thunderbirds again in the post season.
Cloud is currently in a three-way tie for second in the West with an 8-4 record along with Seward County and Colby. Pratt is fifth with an 8-5 mark. The Lady Cougars sit in sixth at 4-8.