Nevada Daily Mail
Inconsistency. It's probably one of the dirtiest words in any coach or player's vocabulary, but it's a word Nevada Lady Tigers head volleyball coach Ashley Thoreson has had to use many times this season.
Tuesday night was no exception as the Lady Tigers went into Senior Night against the Lady Trojans of Girard (Kan.) High School and looked like two different teams in a two sets to one loss. "I mean, there was a lot of things going on tonight with it being Senior Night," Thoreson said. "I just don't think they were focused and ready to play."
The two squads came into the night with some familiarity with one another since the Lady Trojans were one of the teams Nevada went through on its way to winning the Pittsburg tournament in Pittsburg, Kan., on Sept. 15. In that contest, the Lady Tigers needed three sets to pull it off, but did come from behind to beat Girard by the final scores of 25-19, 25-22 and 25-11 after dropping the opening set.
That wasn't the case Tuesday night, however, as the lack of readiness to play and mental preparedness that Thoreson tried to thwart showed right from the start as the Lady Tigers struggled through an opening set in which nearly every aspect of their game simply appeared to be off. After allowing Nevada to score the first two points of the set, Girard took full advantage of Nevada's errors and went on a 5-0 run to take charge of the set.
Girard eventually extended the lead to as much as nine points on five different occasions and exploited a number of holes in Nevada's game on the way to a 25-15 victory. "I could tell it in warm-ups that they were not mentally ready and I addressed it," Thoreson said. "I said, 'I can tell you guys aren't ready to play.'And they said, 'No, we're just focused.' And I had a feeling that was even going to be worse after I heard that comment."
Things changed drastically for the better after Thoreson took the Lady Tigers into the locker room for what was undoubtedly a stern lecture at the conclusion of the opening set. The Lady Tigers came out strong in the second set, stepping up every level of their game, and had the Lady Trojans on their heels right from the start, opening the set with a 7-2 lead.
Girard was never really able to recover and what appeared to be the final nail in the coffin came on the set's 18th combined point when a long rally in which the ball crossed the net a total of five different times went Nevada's way, giving the Lady Tigers a 14-4 lead. Girard kept pace throughout the rest of the set, but was never able to mount a comeback and the Lady Tigers forced a decisive third set with a 25-14 victory.
That was the tempo and energy level fans came expecting to see from Nevada and Thoreson knew that was what her team was genuinely capable of showing. "When we play good, that's how we play," Thoreson said.
That intensity and near-flawless style of play didn't continue into the third and final set of the night, however, and Girard once again took full advantage. Despite starting the set with a 4-1 lead, the Lady Tigers were unable to hold on and Girard rode a pair of 5-0 runs to eventually win the set by a final score of 25-17 and with it, the match.
"I made a few changes between set one and two that went really well," Thoreson said. "And then, in the third set, they all just kind of shut down on me again."
The Lady Tigers junior varsity squad was in action on the night as well and though that match also went three sets, Nevada was able to salvage a split with a come-from behind victory by the final scores of 25-21, 25-23 and 25-13.
With that loss, the Lady Tigers' record stands at 13-6-2 on the year, with most of those six losses coming to very tough competition. Though Thoreson admits that kind of record is a sign of a very good season, she still isn't quite satisfied and won't be until consistency issues become a thing of the past.
"It should have been a win," Thoreson said of Tuesday night's match. "I can't get everyone to show up on the same night."