T-Birds go toe-to-toe with No. 3 Cowley, but fall in four sets

Cloud County freshman Laken Schroeder (No. 12) sets up fellow freshman Shelby Ohlde (No. 11) during Monday's 3-1 loss to No. 3 Cowley. Schroeder had 39 assists, while Ohlde finished with seven kills and six blocks
Cloud County freshman Laken Schroeder (No. 12) sets up fellow freshman Shelby Ohlde (No. 11) during Monday's 3-1 loss to No. 3 Cowley. Schroeder had 39 assists, while Ohlde finished with seven kills and six blocks

CONCORDIA, Kansas — Arley Bryant Gymnasium was rocking Monday night as the Cloud County Community College volleyball team hosted No. 3 ranked Cowley College.

Cowley, a perennial power in the KJCCC East, was matched step for step by the up-and-coming T-Birds, but Cloud County fell just shy of the upset in a tight four-set thriller (23-25, 25-21, 23-25 and 24-26).

Cloud County (8-5 overall, 1-2 KJCCC East) was on the doorstep of forcing a fifth set as it held a 24-22 lead in Set Four following one of 13 kills on the night for freshman right side hitter, Jessica Williams.

After Cowley (9-1 overall, 3-0 KJCCC East) score the next point to cut it to a 24-23 lead, the T-Birds nearly clinched the fourth set on a block attempt by Haven Hamilton, but the ball dropped just a few inches wide of the sideline to tie the set at 24-24.

The Tigers capitalized on the momentum shift to win the next two ensuing points to escape with the 26-24 win in Set Four to close out the match.

"You could tell that Cowley was just a little bit more of a confident and experience team," said Cloud County head coach, Deb Monzon. "They weren't bothered by little things and it showed there in the fourth set (when the Tigers trailed). We still need to mature a little bit in that area to beat the top 2-3 teams in the conference."

Freshman outside hitter Dayana Chara, who sat out Cloud County's last match against McCook Community College due to shoulder soreness, was back in the lineup Monday and paced all T-Birds with a team-high 15 kills. The native of Colombia also added eight digs and four total blocks.

The T-Birds also received key contributions, offensively, from Williams with here 13 kills and eight digs, while her former Concordia Panther teammate, freshman setter Laken Schroeder, finished with 39 assists and four block assists.

Freshman middle blocker Shelby Ohlde was sensational on Monday night, as well, as she spiked down seven kills and owned the front of the net with a team-high six total blocks.

While the Tigers featured a lineup that included three six-footers, the T-Birds were able to neutralize Cowley's size with their athleticism as Cloud finished with 42 team kills and 20 total blocks.

Cowley entered the night averaging just 1.33 blocks per set compared to Cloud County's season average of 1.84.

"I was very pleased with our blocking and our hitting," Monzon said. "I thought we were probably the more athletic team (Monday). Now we need to take that athleticism and build that fire, enthusiasm and killer instinct. If we can put that all together, we're going to be fine."

Defensively, sophomore outside hitter Giovanna Fundaro and freshman libero Willow Hunt went for 15 digs and 10 digs, respectively.

Cloud County will look to build off Monday's performance and apply the lessons learned when it hosts another quality opponent in Highland Community College (11-1 overall 2-0 KJCCC East) at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

"I told the girls in the locker room 'We were in that match against one of the best teams in our conference. We're right there with them,'" Monzon said. "Highland is going to come in with the same type of attitude Cowley did and we're going to have to come into that match with confidence and the attitude that we're taking the win home."