Truman volleyball comes through in tight spots

By Michael Smith
Special to The Examiner

Truman outside hitter Gabby Kurle wasn’t the biggest player when she stepped onto her home court against North Kansas City, but she arguably had the biggest impact Thursday night.

The 5-foot-6 junior had six kills, and the most important one came midway through the second set. Truman was down 15-13 and trailed for most of the game to that point. She got a kill to make it 15-14 before getting another one after a near-two-minute long rally to tie it.

That seemed to deflate the Hornets as the host Patriots took a tightly contested second set on their way to a 25-12, 25-20, 25-22 sweep.

“It’s a lot of going back and forth, back and forth,” Kurle said. “You just have to get that kill to end it. I just wanted to keep going, that was my goal.

“I might not be able to smash the ball to the 10-foot line, but I can put it where they are not.”

Truman head coach David Gardner said Kurle had all the intangles to make a quality outside hitter.

“Gabby is a well-rounded player, she can do everything,” Gardner said. “If she was taller, she’d be immensely sought after. But she’s talented; that’s why she plays (outside hitter).

“She made very few errors tonight and was in the position she needed to be in throughout.”

Kurle’s critical slam came after a dominant first set for Truman (2-2), in which it trailed 6-5 before going on a 20-6 run. Quality serving from senior Dasia Wyatt and junior Anna Sapp, each of whom had two aces in the set, paced the run.

The third set was a close battle that ended with junior Serena Ulberg coming up clutch with two scoring blocks and a kill. On the night, she had five kills, five scoring blocks and an ace.

“It felt really good because we were just trying to get back some of those points,” Ulberg said. “And to finally get those last three where I can finally put it down and redeem myself for my bad plays.”

Ulberg and senior Kylie Gharst have formed a solid tandem as middle hitters as they both have made it difficult for opposing hitters to get kills.

“The middles are our most consistent and most aggressive players,” Gardner said. “Serena can elevate her game even more by being even more aggressive. She’s in her safety zone there, but she does a good job. She and Kylie do a good job blocking the ball.”

After earning a decisive victory, the Truman players are confident the season is on an upward trajectory, in part because of the team’s mental toughness.

“It’s more of a mental game now that we are playing best three out of five sets instead of best of three,” said Gharst, who had five kills. “We tell ourselves it’s a mental game and you just have to keep pushing yourself to be able to put the ball where you want it. We want to show up and show out.”

Added Kurle: “That record is going to change.”