By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-After finishing out a winless campaign in 2018, Patrick Hiltz vowed to change the culture and mentality of a struggling program. He also knew, that it wasn't going to be an overnight success story.
Then the Broncbusters dropped their first 10 matches of the season, leaving the first-year head man as frustrated as ever. But the reward of coaching is seeing your team's hard work pay off. And no, Garden City did not win the National Championship on Wednesday night. But what they accomplished was far more important.
Adisyn Swan was all over the place, finishing with a team-best 22 kills, Katie McHugh had 25 assists, and the Broncbusters snapped a 42-match losing streak by beating Butler in four sets (25-21, 15-25, 25-19 and 25-14). It was their first victory since, ironically enough, Nov. 1, 2017 vs. Butler.
"Obviously, it's great to get that first win, but I'm especially happy for our sophomores," Hiltz said afterwards. "They have persevered through some very difficult times. But they never quit. They had faith in each other, they had faith in Garden City Community College, and tonight, that faith was rewarded."
Garden City sure didn't look like a team that hadn't won a match in nearly two calendar years. They were the aggressors from the get go, building an early 7-2 advantage in the first set, thanks in large part to Swan. The sophomore sent an early spike right down the middle of the Butler defense.
"It was an ugly game; we had way too many errors," Hiltz added. "But in the end, we made fewer errors than they did."
That was apparent in the opening frame, when the Broncbusters early five-point advantage evaporated. But a slew of Grizzly miscues had Garden City back up by three. The Broncbusters maintained that advantage for most of the first set. Then, with a 23-21 lead, Swan and Sheridan Rodriguez combined on a double block, which was followed by a net violation on Butler that gave the home squad the first stanza.
"I thought, at times, we played very well tonight," Hiltz said. "We kept our composure throughout the match."
After losing the second set, the Broncbusters overcame a sluggish start in the third by using a 5-0 run midway through to take control. Up 24-19, and looking to close it out, McHugh caught the Grizzlies off guard by slipping a ball just over the net that dropped inches in front of the Butler front line. The student body roared, and Garden City was up 2-1.
"We did a great job of understanding the game plan," Hiltz explained. "We were willing to extend the point for a better opportunity to score later on."
On Saturday, the Broncbusters nearly ended the skid, taking a 2-1 lead over North Platte in the Otero Junior College Classic. But they couldn't hold the lead.
On Wednesday, Garden City, finally finished the job.
The Broncbusters found themselves down 9-8 in the fourth before an Angel Sherman kill sent shockwaves through the gym. Tameia Davis followed with a spike, Butler committed an unforced error, and Garden City was off and running. Now up by six, Erving halted a Grizzly rally with an emphatic block at the net. That was followed by a trio of Butler errors that gave the Broncbsuters match point. With the crowd on their feet, a short rally ended when Grizzlies' middle blocker Yoana Tsaneva hit the ball into the net, sending Hiltz's team into a frenzy. Game, set, match to Garden City; losing streak over.
"We closed really well at the end of sets," Hiltz said. "That's what it really came down to. The girls played their hearts out, and we got a win for the home crowd."
Garden City is off Thursday before traveling to play in the Ranger Classic on Friday and Saturday. They open with New Mexico at 1 p.m. on Friday.