When Tuesday night’s three-set loss to Newton was over, the Garden City Buffaloes volleyball team knew it had just one practice to prepare for Thursday’s home quadrangular against Colby, Great Bend and Liberal.
But what the Buffs and head coach Trista Bailey didn’t know was that early in that singular practice on Wednesday afternoon, they would lose their standout junior outside hitter, 6-1 Reagan Karlin, to an injury.
The result was a quick regrouping of what lineup and rotation Bailey would implement to offset the loss of Karlin, who has been the top offensive threat for the past two seasons, and is expected back on Sept. 13.
Still, the Buffs found a way, perhaps with a little bit of some miracle gut-checking shots in the final of a three-set nerve-wrecker to just survive the Redskins, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23, completing a 3-0 mark to lift their early season record to 4-1.
In that final set, the Buffs trailed throughout, falling behind 17-14 and 19-16, before finally tying the score at 23 and then taking the lead on Abby Elleerman’s kill. Then, Liberal was unable to return a shot from Garden’s front line, providing a wild celebration on the court.
“It was exhausting and everybody was getting a little antsy at the end,” said junior setter Remi Vargas, who finished with 29 assists and nine digs in the final match. “I just tried to calm everybody down, and told the girls I’d try and mix up the sets for them to keep Liberal off balance.”
That ploy seemed to work as the Buffs swept their earlier two matches in straight sets, knocking off Colby, 25-13-25-14, and Great Bend, 25-16, 25-14.
“I think knowing that we would have a different lineup without Reagan, everybody knew they had to step up and play more, and play harder,” Vargas said. “I think that since we had so little time to prepare, we did pretty good, especially with the switching lineups.”
Bailey, too, was pleased with the overall performance, and credited that competitive nature of her team for rallying in the final moments of the clinching set when nothing had gone particularly well for them since the first set against Liberal when they led from start to finish.
“When you consider that we were just able to mesh things together yesterday, the girls did a great job,” Bailey said. “It speaks volumes for the type of girls we have. They are a tight-knit group, and they like each other and play well together. There’s a lot of trust amongst them.”
Bailey was able to get some great defensive plays from the back line as Kelbi Richter finished with 28 digs, Julie Calzonetti 13, Vargas with her nine and Taylor Terpstra with seven. Terpstra, with Karlin out of the lineup, led with 10 kills, Ellerman and Calzonetti getting seven apiece.
In the two-set sweep of Great Bend, Calzonetti had 10 kills to lead the way, Vargas had 24 assists while Calzonetti, Richter and Vargas had seven, six and six digs, respectively.
“We were able to do a better job of moving the offense around, which we didn’t do against Newton,” Bailey said. “Remi just does a great job of controlling the tempo of our offense and the other girls feed off that.”
In the opening match against Colby, the Buffs got strong serving from Vargas (four kills) and Gisselle Gutierrez and Terpstra with three kills each. Calzonetti had 10 kills, Richter led in digs with 11 and Vargas had 21 assists.
With Karlin out of the lineup, Bailey said she was happy to finish up a flurry of five matches in 48 hours with that 4-1 mark.
“Certainly, the girls have played hard and given great effort,” Bailey said. “Getting Reagan back will be a big plus and the break gives us a chance to work on a lot of things and to get her healthy.”
The Buffs get a chance to catch their breath as they will be idle until Sept. 13 when they host Ulysses, Pratt and Hays in a quadrangular at The Garden.