By BOB CRAMER
Mustang zipped to an easy victory over the Yukon Millers in the first set during Bedlam volleyball Oct. 3, but then the fourth-ranked Lady Broncos lost their focus and energy.
The No.14 Millers (11-16) came out flat and error-prone to begin the match, but cut down on the mistakes, won the second set and gave their Canadian County neighbors all they wanted on Pink Out Night for Cancer Awareness at the Mustang High School Event Center.
If not for talented hitter Ruby Kelley, the Millers may well have escaped with the upset.
Kelley, a 6-foot junior, finished with 15 kills and nine blocks as the Lady Broncos (24-4) vanquished Yukon 25-12, 21-25, 25-21, 25-18 before 275 noisy fans.
“Ruby saved us tonight,” Mustang coach Steve Hajek said. “She was on fire. We told the setters to start feeding her the ball.”
Hajek’s daughter, senior libero Madi Hajek, who is the closest thing to being a coach on-court, praised her teammate.
“Ruby was being so intelligent about where to put the ball,” Madi Hajek said. “That’s how you play volleyball. She did an awesome job. She is a person you can rely on 100 percent of the time.”
Kelley, Madyln Booth, Annabeth Fehrle, Sage McCaskill and Madi Hajek made big plays in the last two sets as Mustang won its eighth straight match and for the 21st time in 23 outings.
Mustang also improved to 10-1 at home, 10-2 in the COAC and coach Hajek now is 3-1 during his tenure versus Yukon.
Madi Hajek contributed 21 digs on defense, and Booth had nine kills and 16 digs.
Kelley said the Lady Broncos felt some nerves after winning easily in the first set.
“The pressure of No. 4 and it being a rivalry, we struggled on the mental side,” Kelley said.
Yukon coach Rachel Allred was mostly pleased with the way her team played after the opening set.
“I think it was more difficult than they expected it to be with us ranked 14 and them four,” Allred said.
Of the Millers’ mistake-filled first set, Allred said, “We were playing to survive, not playing to win.
“The first set, it was all self-inflicted. We shot ourselves in the foot. All unforced errors.”
Yukon’s front line gave the team momentum in the second set with spikes by hitters Brianna Worth and Addison Wimmer and blocks from Katie Clark.
“Katie Clark’s blocks were the key to us winning the second set,” Allred said.
The Millers began finding open gaps in Mustang’s defense with simple tips when they weren’t slamming spikes at the Lady Broncos.
“They used the tip on us really well,” coach Hayek said. “There were a lot of balls that hit the floor that shouldn’t have.”
Kelley said the tips “frustrated us a lot, but we got it sorted out at the end.”
Madi Hajek, who as libero is the Lady Broncos’ minister of defense, took Yukon’s frequent tips personally.
“We will be making changes on defense at practice tomorrow and for our next game,” she said of the tips.
With regional tournament assignments less than two weeks away, coach Hajek saw some reason to be concerned following Bedlam.
“We lost our focus. We strayed away from playing our game,” he said. “But our girls are fighters, they don’t give up. Fortunately, they were able to refocus.”