(Kenny Felt/Special to the Tribune)
The top eight of the 12 Division II teams in Region VI -- all 11 teams in the Eastern Division plus Hesston -- qualify for the playoffs. Going into the match, the Greyhounds and Allen County were tied with 4-6 records in Division II matches.
The 'Hounds could have still made the tournament had Allen lost to Coffeyville. But the Red Devils won that match, 28-26, 25-20, 19-25, 25-23, to improve to 5-6 in Division II play and claim the eighth seed. Fort Scott finished ninth at 4-7.
Inconsistency dogged the 'Hounds Wednesday night. They would show stretches of brilliance. Then there would be stretches where nothing worked, a reflection of the inexperience of a team that had only three sophomores.
"We made a lot of mistakes," Fort Scott head coach Lindsay Hill said. "We made a lot of errors at crucial times. In game three, we gave them 12 of their 25 points. You're not going to win very matches when ... they only have to earn 13 points. That's where we really faltered tonight."
Fort Scott (23-10 overall) rolled out to a 7-3 led in the first set. But Kansas City's more taller, leaner hitters began to rally the Blue Devils (23-12). Six-three sophomore Elizabeth Stevenson 6' 3" freshman Chelsea Sheldon-Medina began to control the net as KCK fought back to take a 10-9 lead.
The 'Hounds still had a chance to take the set after a Devil error gave them the serve tied 23-23. But Britney Timme's serve went into the net to give KCK the lead and the serve. And outside hitter Lisa Angello gave the Devils the set.
In the second set, Fort Scott went out to a 5-1 lead and was able to keep Kansas City on its heels most of the way as the Devils never led.
KCK managed to get within 23-21 on Angello's kill. But 6' 1" freshman Paula Okrutna gave the 'Hounds the serve with a kill, then blasted another one into the floor for the set, tying the match at 1-1.
"When we hit the ball at them and made them play defense, they didn't dig the ball very well," Hill said. "We talked about how we needed to keep doing that in games three and four."
But, as was the case most of the season, as Okrutna went, so did the Greyhounds. When she hit slumps, the Devils were able to take advantage.
'Hound errors helped put KCK up 11-6 in the third set. But Fort Scott went on a 6-point roll to take the lead only to see the Devils go right on a 7-1 roll to reclaim it at 18-13.
Angello scored the winning point in this set as well to gave KCK a 2-1 lead.
A lot of Fort Scott's struggles could be blamed on the fact that Okrutna is the Greyhounds' only really powerful hitter. Although others can score, the offense works best when Okrutna's on. KCK, meanwhile, had multiple power hitters with Stevenson, Sheldon-Medina, Angello and 6' 3" freshman middle hitter Jessica Thompson.
"Next year, that's definitely what we'll be looking for.," Hill said in addressing the Greyhounds' lack of power. "We need some more power hitters so we can go to more than just one option."
The fourth set was a back-and-forth affair. Fort Scott took a 5-1 lead only to see KCK tie it. The Devils eventually went up 10-8 before the match started swaying.
The 'Hounds tied the score at 23-23 and 24-24. But Stevenson got a kill to put KCK up one.
On the next serve, the 'Hounds got the ball to Okrutna but she hit the ball into a Stevenson's block and the ball fell back on the Greyhound side of the net for KCK's match-winning point.
Okrutna finished with 24 kills while Heather Greer added 10. Taylyn Schwartz handed out 39 assists.
Though this was Sophomore Night, there are actually two more home matches that give Schwartz, Jessica Garrett and Thamara Silva -- who transferred in this season from Indian Hills (Iowa) -- a chance to end their FSCC careers on a winning note.
The Greyhounds will host Cottey College Friday night at 6:30 p.m. The Saturday match against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M has been moved up to an 11 a.m. start at Arnold Arena. FSCC has beaten both teams in matches earlier this season.
NOTES -- The Greyhounds have won 18 more matches so far this season than they did last year under former coach Sonya Petroski. However, other than the fact that there are banners in Arnold Arena for the 1989 KJCCC-East champion team and the 1990 team that tied for first in the East, it's not known where a 23-victory season lies in context of the program's history.
Those championship teams were coached by Kerry Messersmith, who later went on to coach at Pittsburg State and then her alma mater, Chadron State (Neb.). She is currently the head coach at NCAA Division I Alabama-Birmingham. In fact, last Saturday night Messersmith recorded her 600th victory as a head coach with a 3-1 victory over Rice in a Conference USA match.
According to the UAB website (www.uabsports. com), Messersmith is 600-320 in 24 seasons with a 126-68 record as the Blazers' coach. Prior to Messersmith's arrival at UAB, the Blazers had gone 15-37 -- and just 1-24 in 2004....
Coincidence? You decide: When Messersmith was here, her husband, Hal, was Fort Scott's head baseball coach. Current coach Hill's husband, John, is the current baseball coach at FSCC.
Hal Messersmith, in case you were wondering, is now UAB's Director of Volleyball Operations....