Freshman Jade Nelson had career highs in kills and hitting percentage while sophomores Cassie Wiley and Jordan Rehm also had double-figure kills as the Hutchinson Community College volleyball team defeated Seward County 3-1 on Tuesday night in a key Jayhawk West match at the Sports Arena.

On Sept. 21 in Liberal, the Lady Dragons bolted out to a 2-0 match lead only to see the Saints rally and win it in five sets. On Tuesday night, HCC led the match 2-0 and despite Seward County claiming the third set, the Lady Dragons refused to let another Saints comeback occur, defeating Seward County 26-24, 25-12, 22-25, 29-27.

With the victory, the Lady Dragons (11-17, 7-5 Jayhawk West) move closer to clinching a home match for the opening round of the Region VI Tournament. HCC has two league matches remaining at Garden City on Thursday and against Dodge City next Wednesday.

“We have grown so much as a team,” said Nelson, who played one of her best overall matches of the season. “We don’t play as individuals anymore. We play as a team.”

Nelson hit a career-high .480 and 12 kills on 25 swings with no errors to lead the Lady Dragons. The freshman outside hitter also had six blocks, including three solo stuffs.

Wiley had 12 kills and hit .428 with four total blocks. Rehm had 11 kills and 17 digs for her 10th double-double of the season.

“Those freshmen are starting to grow as players and are developing as college volleyball players,” HCC head coach Sarah Myers said. “It’s starting to show asking for 1 percent improvement every day and it started in August.”

“We have grown up tremendously,” Rehm said. “We are becoming and team. We are understanding each other. We stayed strong tonight and kept our mind focused. We do well fighting back.”

The Lady Dragons hit .205 as a team. They out-blocked the Saints 12-4 and had 12 service aces to the Saints’ 1.

Freshman setter Hayley Young 38 assists and six digs. Freshman libero Paige Forrester had a team-high 19 digs and freshman Shayne Haley had five kills, three blocks and 10 digs.

HCC also got two huge contributions off the bench. Freshman Kayla Karmazyn and four kills, including a late critical four-set kill, with two blocks. Liberal native Ashlyn Westerman had a match-high five service aces.

“Kayla really stepped up,” Myers said. “She hasn’t seen a lot of court time, but she’s really worked hard in practice. Now she has her confidence level where it needs to be and her teammates believe in her. She took it upon her shoulders and ran with it. She did a really good job tonight.”

Outside hitter Courtney Geesing had 22 kills to lead the Saints. Bailey McFerren had eight kills.

The first set featured 14 ties and 10 lead changes. A dump for a kill by Young gave HCC an early 12-9 lead. The Saints went on a 5-1 run for a 14-13 lead after back-to-back Geeing kills. The Saints led 19-18 and HCC went on a 4-0 run with kills from Emily Oberlin and Wiley and a pair of attack errors to lead 22-19. The Saints countered with a 5-0 run to lead 24-22. HCC fought off two set points against and closed the first set with a 4-0 run.

As close as the first set was, the second set was all Hutchinson. HCC scored the first three points of the set starting with a combo block from Karmazyn and Haley. Leading 5-3, the Lady Dragons reeled off six-straight taking an 11-3 lead on a Rehm solo stuff block. Wiley had three kills and two blocks, Nelson had two kills and three blocks and Haley added two blocks and two service aces as the lead grew to 20-9. HCC closed the set with big kills from Wiley and Young to win 25-12 and lead the match 2-0.

Seward County had a renewed energy in the third set, jumping out to a 4-1 lead. After a Wiley kill pulled HCC into an 18-all tie, the Saints then took charge with a 6-2 run to lead 22-18. Seward County had problems finishing off the Lady Dragons in the third set. A Geesing kill gave Seward County five set points at 24-19, but a Nelson kill, Seward attack error and Rehm kill pulled Hutchinson within 24-22 before Geesing finally salted away the set for the Saints with her ninth kill of the set.

The Lady Dragons fell behind 9-5 early in the fourth set, but went on a 4-0 run to tie it on two Westerman aces, a Wiley kill and a double block by Rehm and Wiley. The fourth set was tied 17 times. Geesing had eight kills in the set to get crucial points for Seward, but Wiley and Nelson continually came up big for the Lady Dragons on key points as well.

“I told them after the third that we were still in control of the match,” Myers said. “We were still up 2-1, but we have to come out strong. I knew they were going to come out strong after the 10-minute break. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your momentum after the 10-minute break.”

A Geesing kill brought Seward County to the brink of a fifth set at 24-23, but the Saints were called for a net violation to erase that chance. Haley’s service ace gave Hutch its first of three set points erased by the Saints. At 27-all, a Wiley kill gave the Lady Dragons a fourth match point and Forrester’s second service ace of the match clinched the victory.

HCC will play at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at Garden City.

(By Steve Carpenter/HCC Sports Information Director)