Things couldn't have started worse for the Cowley College volleyball team this season.
Ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in NJCAA Division II and coming off a national-runner up finish, the Tigers dropped back-to-back matches to start the season — albeit to ranked teams — and tumbled all the way down to No. 9 when the next poll came out.
"I really questioned if I was approaching things the right way because our performance was very, very poor," Second-year Cowley coach Jennifer Bahner said. "But it turned out losing those matches ended up being a good thing. We realized being No. 1 doesn't mean anything and we realized that we were going to have to deal with pressure all year long, so we might as well get used to it."
Three weeks ago, the Tigers returned to No. 1.
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They haven't lost since dropping their first two and are now 26-2 overall and 7-0 in the Jayhawk East, a division that includes No. 3 Johnson County and No. 17 Highland.
In the Tigers' streak, they've toppled eight ranked opponents, including then-No. 1 Parkland (Ill.). The 26 straight wins are also a school record.
"We know whoever we're playing, we're going to get their best," Bahner said. "And that's what we're here for, we're here to compete."
Cowley is led by 6-foot-3 sophomore outside hitter/setter Roslandy Acosta, the reigning Jayhawk East most valuable player and a first-team All-American as a freshman.
Acosta, from Vargas, Venezuela, leads the Tigers with 282 kills, 57.5 blocks and 469 assists.
Having your team's top hitter also be its top passer is an unusual luxury to have, which Bahner recognizes.
"It gives us two people on the court that can set, which is very difficult to game plan for," Bahner said. "There's an intimidation factor when you have someone like (Acosta) on the front row."
Cowley returns to action Wednesday at Longview (Mo.).
Kennard outshines Carter _ Both No. 1 Butler and No. 3 Coffeyville boasted high-profile Division I recruits at wide receiver headed into Saturday's showdown, a 38-26 victory by the Grizzlies at Coffeyville.
Most of the hype, however, centered on Coffeyville's Duron Carter, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore transfer from Ohio State.
After the game, however, it was all about Butler sophomore Marcus Kennard, a 6-4, 185-pounder commited to Kansas State.
Kennard finished with five catches for 100 yards and two highlight-reel touchdown catches. On the first, he made a diving grab in the back of the end zone, reaching out with his left hand to tip the ball back to his right hand for the score.
On the second, Kennard adjusted to an underthrown ball in the air, cutting off his route to get back to the ball. Carter finished with five catches for 52 yards and no touchdowns.