Cougar comeback comes up short in five set loss to Pratt

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The Barton Community College Volleyball team almost pulled off the upset Wednesday night at the Barton Gym but the Pratt Community College Beavers held off the Cougars’ comeback to win in five sets 7-25, 25-22, 25-17, 23-25, and 15-8.  The loss drops Barton to 4-7 in conference play and 6-21 on the season while Pratt solidifies their second place Jayhawk standing improving to 8-4 and 20-8 overall.

Barton simply rolled in the first set as everything went the way of the Cougars.  Jumping out to a 10-2 lead, Barton increased the lead out to eleven and never looked back.  Behind a .474 attack percentage the Cougars buried the Beavers closing out the set with five straight to win 25-7.

The ease of the first set may have been the Cougars’ downfall in suffering only their second defeat to Pratt at the Barton Gym since 1990.

“Well we knew the first set was way too easy and would not be repeated,” professed Barton Head Coach Phil Shoemaker.  “Sometimes I hate it when I am right. Pratt is a team that prides itself on defense and does a lot of little things right. We played pretty good defense too with 88 digs but not maintaining our offensive aggressiveness was a major issue and played into their hands.”

The 88 kills were the most for the Cougars this season since a 90 dig effort in late August against the junior varsity squad of Friends University.

Despite eight kills from Jessie Sewell on the way to a career high twenty-two for the match, a .146 attack percentage and errors down the stretch cost the Cougars the pivotal second set.  Trailing by one, Pratt scored the next four to build a slim 13-10 lead but the Cougars scored five of the next six to reclaim a 15-14 lead.  Following a Pratt point, Barton seemed to take control scoring the next four then maintained the four-point gap until leading 22-18 and on the verge of taking its second straight set.  The Beavers weren’t ready to make life easy for Barton roaring back with seven unanswered to steal the 25-22 and tie the match.

“Jessie had a monster game offensively for us but that was it unfortunately,” Shoemaker said. “We allowed their defense to get in our heads which resulted in second guessing ourselves, getting timid or indecisive and we made some errors that really hurt our chances.”

Pratt rode the momentum into the third scoring six of seven to open up an 11-4 lead.  The Cougars tried to get back in the set with three straight behind consecutive kills from freshman Jordan Edelman but the Beavers responded with a 5-0 run to build a nine point lead.  Barton was unable to battle back and Pratt took the match lead with the 25-17 win.

Early and midway through the fourth the fight appeared to be slipping from the Cougars as Pratt methodically built a modest 17-13.  Following Barton’s second timeout of the set, Pratt scored four of the next five to what seemed to be a commanding 21-14 lead and on the verge of putting away the match.  In what was perhaps the best string of points for the Cougars all season, Barton scored eight straight to shock the Beavers in reclaiming the lead by one.  The Beavers regrouped to rattle off two straight but the Cougars struck back with two of their own to force Pratt’s second timeout.  Kylie Jones put the dagger in the set with a kill down the line and the Cougars had completed the 25-23 comeback win to force a decisive fifth set.

Things slipped away for Barton early as three straight put the Cougars in a 5-2 hole.  Cutting the lead to two on the next point, another three straight by the Beavers opened up a five point lead.  With their backs against the wall, Barton responded with three straight of their own but a service error killed the momentum as Pratt would tack on two more to build the lead back out to five at 11-6.  From there Barton could only muster a couple of single points and Pratt held on to win the fifth 15-8.

“Pratt proved they are pretty good and we have a lot of growing up and getting tougher to do,” concluded Shoemaker.

Sewell’s twenty-two kills led the Cougars as Jones and Tahje Ochs each contributed six with Jennica O’Neill close behind with five.  Sophomores Casey Friesen and Lakyn Rowden each had double-double nights as Friesen put up 28 assists with 15 digs for her eighth double-double of the season while Rowden recorded her second with 12 assists to go along with 10 saves.  Mykela Riedl led the team with 25 digs with Ochs getting 16 and O’Neil saving 13.

Dropping the first of a four-match home stand, Barton will take to the court again on Saturday in a 1:00 p.m. first serve against Cloud County Community College (6-4, 14-6).  The T-Birds made short work of the Cougars earlier this season in Concordia winning the match in three straight.

Barton will wrap up the home portion of the schedule next Monday against Dodge City Community College and on Friday against Butler Community College.  First serve for both matches is 6:30 p.m.

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