State Colleges

Phillips keeping Tabor at top

For the Tabor College volleyball team, two years without a KCAC title has felt like 10.

It's what happens when you have a program that was dominant for as long as the Bluejays were, winning six straight league titles from 2001 to 2006.

"It does feel like a long time, and we're ready to get back to being excellent again," said 11th year Tabor coach Amy Ratzlaff. "It's all the little things that turn you into a championship team, and we've still got a lot of volleyball left to be played."

Tabor has rolled to an 8-0 mark this season in league play so far in part because of the leadership of sophomore setter Mandi Phillips, a Halstead product who has been named the KCAC setter of the week four straight times to start the season.

Phillips leads the Bluejays with 602 assists — an average of 10.38 per set — all while helping Ratzlaff implement a new offense.

"Mandi has really been a blessing, not only because she's such an excellent athlete, but also because she's extremely intelligent," Ratzlaff said. "She has to know where everybody is at all times, and it seems like each time she goes out there she's improving."

For the 5-foot-6 Phillips, playing setter is her natural habitat, having been at the position since fourth grade.

"I've been playing setter for so long that everything does come natural," Phillips said. "You just become aware of where everybody is at on the floor."

And where Phillips wants the Bluejays to be at the end of the season is at the NAIA National Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa.

"Winning the KCAC is very important because our goal is to make it to the national tournament," Phillips said. "But that's not the only reason. We also play because we love the game and you can't forget that."

Bethany moves into rankings — The Bethany football team moved into the NAIA Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 2002, making its debut at No. 24. The Swedes' gap between appearances in the poll was the longest for any of the top 25 teams. Bethany defeated Kansas Wesleyan 27-21 on Saturday in a battle of undefeated teams.

Four other teams in the KCAC also appeared in the rankings alongside Bethany as undefeated Ottawa moved up one spot to No. 10, Friends moved up one to No. 15 and McPherson hopped two spots to No. 18.