In a match punctuated by alternating scoring runs, the question became which team – Kansas Wesleyan or Bethany – would take control down the stretch and claim the victory.
The answer didn’t favor KWU. Bethany scored the last six points of the fifth set and won 3-2 (17-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-20, 15-10) in a tight, tough and tense Kansas Conference volleyball match Wednesday night at Mabee Arena.
The final set was microcosm of the back-and-forth first four sets. KWU surged to an early 3-1 lead, Bethany rallied and led 8-4, the Coyotes battled back and gained a 10-9 advantage before the Swedes’ closing flurry ended it.
“I felt like we couldn’t find our flow tonight,” Wesleyan coach Jessica Biegert said. “We never got in a good rhythm to just ease up and play. It was tight the whole game. It’s not a skill thing, it’s an intangible thing and that’s kind of what we lacked tonight.”
KWU (5-4 overall, 2-1 KCAC) appeared to be in good shape, taking a 2-1 lead into the fourth set and building an early 5-2 lead. Bethany went ahead 6-5, but the Coyotes hung tough and were up 15-12 before the pendulum swung again – the Swedes scoring 11 of the next 12 points for a 23-16 lead.
“Our highs were pretty high and we’d get on runs, but then our lows were too low,” Biegert said. “It was harder to recover and to run with momentum.”
KWU has just six upperclassmen (two seniors, four juniors) on the roster and several freshmen are seeing significant playing time.
“They just need to fine-tune a little bit with the freshmen,” Biegert said. “We’re young and this is going to happen. Last year Cortney (Hanna) and (Maddy) Beckett and Emily (Monson) got out of that fast, so we’re expecting these freshmen to (do the same).”
The loss overshadowed Beckett’s monstrous outing that saw her finish with 24 kills on a .222 hitting percentage. She also had 16 digs.
“It’s fun to see how much she’s improved just from last year to this year, freshman to sophomore,” Biegert said. “She gotten mentally tough and she gotten smart with her hits instead of just swinging as hard as she can.
“We really relied on her in those crucial points and she’s won games for us, for sure.”
Morgan Bryand (SO/Wichita, Kan.) added 13 kills as the Coyotes hit at a .184 percentage for the match. Hanna set the offense with 42 assists.
Monson led the defense with 23 digs, Beckett with her 16 and Jordan Childs (FR/Buhler, Kan.) had 13. Elizabeth Hardacre (SO/Kensington, Kan.) chipped in seven kills, four block assists and one solo block.
Bethany (5-2, 2-1 KCAC) hit at a.179 percentage and was led by Jordan Valentine’s 19 kills and Paola Sanabria-Lopez’s 16.
“They have two players that know how to put a ball down,” Biegert said of Valentine and Sanabria-Lopez. “You can win with two players and our goal was to stop at least one. That was a tough one tonight and we saw the result.”
KWU closed out the first set with a 7-1 run, but the Swedes won the second set on the strength of a 6-2 run that gave them a 19-12 lead. Leading 18-17 in the third set the Coyotes outscored the Swedes 7-2 the rest of the way.
Wesleyan plays two more conference matches inside Mabee Arena on Saturday, starting with McPherson at 2 p.m., then Tabor at 6 p.m. After Saturday, their next nine matches are on the road before returning home November 14, to play Sterling.