T-Birds open up 2018 season with a 3-1 victory over Butler

Freshman setter Laken Schroeder (No. 12) sets for freshman Shelby Ohlde (No. 11) during Wednesday's 3-1 win over Butler
Freshman setter Laken Schroeder (No. 12) sets for freshman Shelby Ohlde (No. 11) during Wednesday's 3-1 win over Butler

CONCORDIA, Kansas — Long time Cloud County Community College volleyball fans experienced a genuine "Déjà vu" moment Wednesday night when the T-Birds opened up their 2018 season with a 3-1 home win against Butler Community College.

Deb Monzon was back on the very sidelines she manned between 1983-1996, leading those Cloud County teams to a combined record of 529-200. Her second stint as Head Coach has started right where her first left off.

"It's nice to get that first win on your home court and in the first match after being gone for 21 years," Monzon said. "It felt great. We had a little shaky start, but I think we recovered well and it was a lot of fun."

Cloud County (1-0 overall) battled some opening night jitters in the first set, falling behind 8-1 early before finding its footing. The T-Birds rallied back to tie the match on three occasions at 16-16, 19-19 and 20-20 before Butler (0-1 overall) finished the set on a 5-1 spurt to take Set One, 25-21.

Errors were the common theme in the opening set for the T-Birds as they had seven of their 13 total attack errors in Set One.

"I told the girls during our timeouts that (Butler) really wasn't doing anything to us, we're doing it to ourselves," Monzon said. "We weren't handling the ball and it looked like we weren't ready to play."

The T-Birds would right the ship in the second set, though. With the score tied at 13-13, Cloud County went on a 4-0 burst behind a pair of aces from freshman Jessica Williams and a solo block from Haven Hamilton to force a Butler timeout at 17-13.

Cloud would keep the Grizzlies at an arm's length the rest of the way to even that match with a 25-18 win in Set Two.

With the momentum on their side, the T-Birds made quick work of Butler over the final two sets, earning victories of 25-15 and 25-14, respectively.

Freshman outside hitter Dayana Chara and sophomore outside hitter Giovanna Fundaro led the surge as the duo finished with 13 kills and 11 kills, respectively, to pace the T-Birds. Cloud County finished with 46 total kills on the night.

Six different T-Birds recorded at least one kill on Wednesday as freshmen Shelby Ohlde (5), Hamilton (5) and Williams (9) helped to provide the well-rounded attack.

"Our depth showed (Wednesday). We have 2-3 girls on the bench who I think can step in and play at that level too," Monzon said. "We weren't dependent on one person, but a lot of balls are going to go to the outside and those two (Chara and Fundaro) took care of it."

Freshman setter Laken Schroeder quarterbacked the offense well in her first collegiate action, finishing with 32 assists and two kills, and sophomore libero Britt Michaelis anchored the back row with a team-high 18 digs.

As a team, Cloud County finished with 43 digs compared to 25 digs for Butler.

Chara also chipped in 10 digs, while Ohlde was the defense star at the net on Wednesday, finishing with a team-high seven total blocks, five of which were solo blocks.

Up next for Cloud County will be the Southeast Community College tournament in Beatrice, Nebraska this Friday and Saturday. The T-Birds are scheduled to face four teams during the weekend, starting Friday against Southwestern Community College (1 p.m.) and Hawkeye Community College (5 p.m.).

"We have to be ready for anything this weekend. But if we play the way we did (Wednesday) during those final three sets, I really think all four games this weekend are winnable games," Monzon said.