There’s a certain energy emitted off the bench of the Hastings College volleyball team these days.
We’ve seen the choreographed dance routines during timeouts. We’ve seen the silly celebrations with dips and jumps after ace serves. Our ear drums have been overwhelmed with booms and woos after big blocks and kills.
But what we hadn’t seen much of the last six seasons was emotion from the Broncos’ coach.
Matt Buttermore was reserved — emotionless, really — and rarely cracked a smile from his chair as he sat back and watched the match unfold.
There’s nothing wrong with that style; to each their own. And his days at HC are now past.
But when Alex Allard left San Antonio, Texas, for Hastings, the first-year coach packed with her animation, enthusiasm, and gusto.
She’s since unzipped her suitcase, and her interactive nature on the sideline has infected her players.
The Broncos picked up their fourth consecutive win Wednesday night at Lynn Farrell Arena, downing Great Plains Athletic Conference foe Doane University in four sets 25-18, 20-25, 25-14, 25-16.
“I’m trying to emulate what I want to see on the court,” Allard said. “So, if we get a big kill, I want to get excited so they get excited. If we make an error, I try to tell them ‘Don’t worry about it, next point.’ We always say to put the error in your back pocket — forget about it, but keep it close so you remember it and you can make adjustments.”
Senior middle Emily Lenners, who recorded nine kills, said Allard’s attitude has been infectious for the team.
“We definitely feed off of her, especially during timeouts. She brings a lot of fire, a lot of energy. She’s always pushing us to be aggressive and be intense on the court,” said Lenners.
The Broncos desperately needed Allard’s vitality coming out of the intermission between the second and third sets.
Hastings opened the match hitting .273, and raised up a discouraging block that Doane couldn’t avoid. The Tigers hit just .029 in the first set, with eight kills and seven errors.
But Doane altered its shots in the second set, using Hastings’ strength against it.
“I think in that first set we scored a lot of blocks, which was great,” said Lenners, who was credited with four blocks. “But in that second set, Doane started tooling off that block and trying to use it.”
The most productive piece of the Tigers’ offense found her groove in the second frame. Senior Allison Kuenle, a two-time first-team GPAC selection, pounded eight of her match-high 16 kills to lead her team to a 25-20 win in set two.
“We just couldn’t get our hands across the net fast enough. But we talked about it, and did a better job in sets three and four,” Allard said.
Doane carried the momentum out of the intermission, and it looked like it might grow stronger after Hastings received a yellow card for not turning in its lineup on time, and then a red card for delay of game.
The Tigers began the set with a one-point advantage and the serve, but Allard wasn’t worried.
“We’re actually more comfortable in serve receive, so it kind of worked out in our favor,” the coach said.
The Broncos rolled through the set 25-14. Hastings responded to hitting just .146 with nine kills and three errors in the second set, and turned in a .517 attacking percentage with 16 kills and one error in the third.
“That could have gone the complete opposite way,” Allard said. “They did a great job responding.”
Hastings kept Doane out of system for much of the final two sets, serving a combined five aces over that span. Josie Dominguez and Ireland Currey each finished with two aces on the night.
“I think the biggest improvement has been from behind the service line,” Allard said. “We started putting a punishment on missed serves, but we’ve also taught a few different serves — being able to serve a ball that’s deep at people’s shoulders and a ball that drops at their toes. We’ve paid more attention to the serving game because we had been missing so many serves, and I think we’ve really gotten ahold of it now.”
The Broncos came into the game with no player who had reached the 100 kill mark through 11 games. Lucy Skoch was the closest with 94, and Emily Krolikowski was right behind her with 93.
Both of them eclipsed the mark, as Skoch recorded a team-high 15, while hitting .367, and Krolikowski notched eight kills and hit .400.
Getting the Broncos’ plethora of attackers on the same page with a new setter has been an issue for the Broncos through their now 12 games. Skoch, especially, had to make numerous mid-air adjustments to put the ball over the net.
“Lucy did a phenomenal job, especially in system and out of system. Some of those sets weren’t perfect. They weren’t all the same height or the same speed. She adjusted and still got kills,” Allard said.
Jaisee Stinson had trouble connecting her sets with Skoch and the other hitters. But Allard said her freshman setter just needs to modify her mechanics.
“It’s a Jaisee thing,” Allard said with a grin. “We’ve talked about it a little bit, she just needs to get her head underneath the ball. She’s catching it from too far away and it’s messing with the back sets. But we’re going to address it this week at practice.”
The Broncos (6-6 overall, 1-1 GPAC) began the season with a loss for just the first time in the last eight years, and were under .500 until Wednesday night.
They’ll play an improved College of St. Mary (15-4, 1-1) team Saturday at home, before traveling to Morningside (8-3, 0-2), who is receiving votes in the national poll, and No. 8 Midland (10-3, 2-0) next week.
Doane (9-5)........18 25 14 16
Hastings (6-6).....25 20 25 25
Alexis Dale 6-0-3; Allison Kuenle 16-0-2; Madison VanHousen 8-0-1; Reagan Petersen 2-0-0; Genna Ryan-Piasecki 4-0-1; Kennedy Scheele 0-1-0; Katie Ellard 0-0-0; Joslyn Crow 0-0-0; Ryed Creek 0-0-0; Kirsten Bures 2-0-1; Jaime Renshaw 3-0-0; Jesse Coble 0-0-0; MacKenzie Brandl 0-0-0; Emma Ryan 2-0-0. Totals 43-1-5.
Assists — Jaime Renshaw 33; Kennedy Scheele 3; Alexis Dale 1; Katie Ellard 1; Reagan Petersen 1.
Claire Ostrand 0-1-0; Josie Dominguez 0-2-0; Jaisee Stinson 0-0-0; Casey Sutherland 0-0-0; Emily Lenners 9-0-4; Ireland Currey 0-2-0; Claira Thede 0-1-0; Claire Vanderbeek 6-0-3; Emily Krolikowski 8-0-0; Cassidy Ostrand 1-0-0; Ally Ginkens 8-0-0; Bailey Lukasiewicz 0-1-0; Lucy Skoch 15-0-5; Danielle Bruha 7-0-3. Totals 54-7-8.
Assists — Jaisee Stinson 21; Claira Thede 18; Bailey Lukasiewicz 3.