HUTCHINSON — It was quite a run to the end of the season, but that end finally came on Monday afternoon for the Barton Community College volleyball team, as they found their legs late in the season and kept that going all the way to the NJCAA Region VI semifinals where Barton suddenly fell apart halfway through the match.
The Lady Cougars split games on the opening day of the four-team double-elimination tournament and looked to be on their way to the championship contest after taking 2-0 lead over Colby on Monday afternoon before seeing the Lady Trojans rally to win the final three sets and move into the championship contest.
Barton, the No. 4 seed, won the opening two sets 25-22 and 25-21 before things went south. Colby, the No. 2 seed, won the next two sets 25-17 and 25-16 before finishing things off in the fifth and final set 15-12.
“Today’s loss was obviously a disappointment,” first-year Barton head coach Phil Shoemaker said. “When you are up 2-0, you anticipate the ability to close things out. Unfortunately we did not play with the confidence, composure and competitive spirit which allowed us to reach this point in our season.”
Hutchinson will take a 26-10 record the NJCAA National Tournament after besting Colby in the title match 25-15, 25-16, 25-21.
Barton closed strong in the opening two sets to go up 2-0 on Colby.
In the first set, Barton led nearly all the way but couldn’t shake the Lady Trojans. Barton led 21-20 when the Lady Cougars ran off three straight points to take a 24-20 lead.
McKenzie Piland’s kill put the game away at 25-21 to give Barton an early lead.
The second set saw Colby jump out to an early lead at 7-4 before Barton rallied to take over at 8-7.
That set the tone for runs as Colby would go on a 6-1 run to go up 13-9 before a 9-1 Barton spurt gave the Lady Cougars an 18-15 lead. Barton again led 21-20 before back-to-back kills by Tahje Ochs and Mackenzie Orchard made it 23-21. The Lady Cougars secured the win on a Mykela Riedl service ace and Barton appeared headed to a showdown with Hutchinson for the Region VI title.
But things changed quickly.
Colby used a 4-0 run in the third set to take a 9-5 lead and kept going.
The lead reached 15-9 and eventually 19-12 before the Lady Cougars had one more rally in them.
Barton cut it to 19-15 with three straight Jori Mote kills but that would be as close as Barton would get as Colby pulled away for the 25-17 win.
The fourth set was much the same as Colby took an early lead before Barton came back to tie the set at 12-all.
Colby gained control with a 9-1 run through a pair of Barton timeouts to take a 21-13 lead on the way to the 25-16 win.
In the fifth and deciding set, it looked like Colby would cruise to the win again but Barton didn’t go quietly.
Colby jumped to a 3-0 lead, improved it to 6-2 and eventually 9-3 as it looked as though the Lady Trojans would coast to 15 points hammering the ball at the net.
But Barton had a rally.
Down 12-7 Barton scored the next four points to make it 12-11 and put suspense in the contest. The teams traded points before Colby finally scored the final two points of the match to win the contest on a pair of Lady Cougar hitting errors.
“We were a bit passive in critical situations which allowed Colby, who did play a good aggressive game, to gain an advantage, and ultimately win out,” Shoemaker said. “We did not follow our game plan as well as needed, again, we were passive, and came a bit undone as a team.
“Had we been able to put Colby away in three, I think we would have had a legitimate shot at Hutch, but going five, and having to face a very talented Hutch team, and beat them twice was probably unthinkable (there is only 45 minutes between matches.) Colby found that out.”
Piland and Orchard had 12 kills each to lead Barton in the loss to Colby while Mote added 11.
Riedl had a pair of service aces for the Lady Cougars and Casey Friesen had 29 assists.
Piland led Barton with 20 digs followed by Friesen with 11 and Kiara Rivera with 10.
Jenna Reid had 6 blocks, Piland 5, Ochs 4 and Mote 3.
Sunday, the Lady Cougars saw their six-match winning streak come to an end to start the championships, dropping a four-set match to the top seeded host Hutchinson Blue Dragons 25-16, 25-14, 19-25, 25-21.
The Lady Cougars then knocked the third seed out of the tournament in the loser’s bracket with a sweep of Seward County, 25-19, 25-21, 25-21.
The Lady Cougars moved to Monday’s play with a dominate effort against the Saints.
Barton had not beaten Seward this season. The Lady Cougars had given the Saints some good battles, losing in five sets at home and four sets on the road.
But at the Region VI Championships, it was all Barton as the Lady Cougars eliminated Seward and moved into the semifinals.
The Lady Cougars had a balanced offensive attack with Mote and Piland each collecting 12 kills with Orchard adding 11. Ochs added eight.
Jennica O’Neill had a pair of services aces to pace the Lady Cougars, while Friesen led Barton with 32 assists and Lakyn Rowden added 12.
“Against Seward, we were much better in serve and pass,” Shoemaker said. “We did a good job keeping them off balance and had good performances from Mote, Orchard, Piland, and a very high contribution from Tahje Ochs. Casey again set a good match for us.”
In the loss to Hutch, Piland led the Lady Cougars with 15 kills, followed by Mote with 13. Orchard added 11 for Barton.
Friesen paced the Lady Cougars with 31 assists while Piland had Barton’s only two services aces.
Defensively, Rivera was big for Barton with 23 digs followed by 11 from Piland.
“We had our chances against Hutch,” Shoemaker said of the opening-round match. “Once we got going, we were pretty good, but not good enough. Our serve and pass game was not as effective as it has been.
“We were unable to take Hutch out of system as needed. Our defense was OK, we blocked outside well, but not the middle. Offensively, we had solid performances from Mote, Orchard, and Piland, but we needed a bit more from others. Casey set a good match for us, but again we came up a bit short.”
The Lady Cougars end their season with a 14-20 record, winning 7-of-9 to end the season.
A quartet of sophomores — Mote, Rivera, Orchard and Piland — all played their final games as Lady Cougars.
“I am proud of all of our team members, and especially how well they hung together when things were not going our way earlier in the season,” Shoemaker said. “Because they did, they were able to get some great performances and results on the back half of the season, once we got healthy and could put a consistent lineup on the court.
“I especially want to thank our sophomores, who were so welcoming to me, and who worked so hard to let everyone know that Barton is again a force to be reckoned with in the KJCCC. Our freshmen contributed greatly, learned a ton, and will provide us with a solid foundation for the future. Other than the sting of today’s defeat, I am very pleased with this team, and they have a lot of great memories to take with them.”