PRATT, Kans.- Unreservedly, it was an eventful weekend in Beaver Nation.
Cross Country began its season September 7 at the JK Gold Classic, with the results from the opening event being found here. Men's soccer valiantly fought back from a 1-0 deficit that same afternoon to force overtime against Garden City, though the Beavers would be undone after seeing the Broncbusters break the tie with a stunning long-distance strike.
Volleyball and women's soccer also participated in the weekend festivities, as Coach Rambo's girls finished with one win in four games at the DAC Fall Classic in Irving, Texas, while Coach Burnett's club pulled away from Garden City in the second half of their September 7 matchup.
Coach Rambo discussed the weekend as a whole, saying his young roster is still searching for continuity.
"We have freshmen at key positions that are still apprehensive at times," Rambo said. "And late in games, we're still trying to find a better way to stay loose both on offense and defense."
The four-game weekend first placed the Beavers in front of #17 Blinn College on September 6, a match the Buccaneers won in straight sets (13-25, 15-25, 13-25). Later in the day, the Beavers fell 1-3 (17-25, 26-24, 26-28, 19-25) against North Lake College, a team that capitalized on the 20-minute bus ride from campus.
The Beavers closed out the extended weekend in Texas by dropping the first match on Saturday to Cedar Valley College 2-3 (25-7, 24-26, 25-18, 23-25, 9-15) in a must-see kind of game, but rebounded well to leave the DFW-area with a win after sweeping Mountain View College (25-20, 25-20, 25-12). Rambo said that a lot of his girls are getting the chance to play and prove themselves worthy of important minutes on the court. Though, a roster comprised of a large majority of freshmen are still acclimating to the speed of collegiate volleyball.
"Kids are getting opportunities, but they are getting really frustrated," Rambo said. "They're a little overwhelmed on some stuff right now. When we get tired and exhausted, or when the balls get chaotic, we're falling back to some really bad habits. This year, we have to continue to get them to work on being disciplined and fall back not on the habits they had in high school, but the good habits they're learning here.
Rambo mentioned earlier in the season that his team was becoming susceptible to mechanical breakdowns as well as mental mistakes, though he says that his point-scorers have rapidly matured in more ways than one.
"Kylee Harman and Morgan Schrag, from day one to now, their swings don't look the same, their body language doesn't look the same, and they walk around a little bit differently. They look like completely different players. I wasn't expecting Morgan to start as soon as she has, and she has done an absolutely phenomenal job learning on the go, and being in the right position.
"Kylee has been the exact same way. Things have changed a lot for her since our first tournament. Her eyes were super big in regards to how big the block was, and she did a really good job in this tournament making adjustments by using her ball control better and she tooled a lot of people this weekend. Having two outside hitters as freshmen, I knew it was going to be rough early, but they're starting to catch on."
Managing to grab a win in the final match of the weekend certainly made the bus ride back to Pratt an easier one to digest for the Beavers, and Rambo believes there is a wave of momentum building for his squad.
"It gives us a lot of confidence heading into the Hutchinson game," Rambo said. "Mountain View was a very good team with a lot of big arms, and that was something we needed to see before playing Hutch. We serve-received really well against them and they had been getting people all weekend on their serve, and we did a great job taking care of their serves and playing in system. It definitely gives us a big energy boost."
Volleyball returns to the Beaver Dome for a matchup with Hutchinson on Wednesday at 6:30 pm CT.
Women's soccer coach Ashley Burnett was ready to finally play a home match, with her and her club's first five games being played outside of Pratt. She could sense that the travel was wearing on a team, like Coach Rambo's, made up of nearly all girls playing their first season of high-level college athletics. She'd asked her team to show the level of tenacity she was asking, given her team's 1-4 start heading into Saturday's matchup with Garden City.
After a 2-1 win, she was pleased with how her group responded to her pleading.
"We came together, played together, and I think that was a deserved win," Burnett said. "We tried out a new formation that I think helped us, and overall it was a great effort from the girls."
Burnett did indeed change the Beavers style of play leading into their matchup with the Broncbusters, with the new system paying immediate dividends.
"It gave us some more numbers in the middle in order for us to keep the ball a little bit more," Burnett said. "I think our midfield did a great job of winning the ball and trying to keep possession. Isabella Battaglia and Katerin Zuniga had really good games and helped us win possession."
Coincidentally or not, both of the Beavers goals were created through the midfield. Ashlyn Rutledge kicked off the scoring for the Beavers in the first-half, heading in a pass from Zuniga. The decisive goal, scored by Madison Phillips, was started by Isabella Battaglia, who lofted a pass over the Garden City defense allowing Phillips to use her athleticism to create and finish a classy chance.
"I kept telling Madison she was going to be able to get behind the defense," Burnett said. "I told her to gamble on a couple of balls because she has the speed to get through the whole defense. Just trying to get her to use her advantages and her athleticism."
In correspondences leading up to the September 7 win, Burnett had noticed that a good chunk of her team was playing too timid. With the Beavers finally being able to play in front of a local crowd, Burnett saw her girls do well to reverse the role, and instead dictate the physicality and tempo of the game.
"We had something to prove," Burnett said. "Getting our first conference win was the goal of [Saturday], and we came out and performed. I just told them if you want this win you have to go out and earn it, work hard for it, be first to the ball and just want it a little bit more."
Women's soccer is back in action on Wednesday, September 11 as the first game of a doubleheader at Beaver Pitch, with kickoff against Cloud County scheduled for 2 pm CT. Men's soccer will also play the Thunderbirds immediately following the conclusion of the women's match.