With the end of the regular season in sight, the Northwest College volleyball team is logging some serious bus time, with two games last weekend and two more this weekend on the road.
The Lady Trappers (13-11, 7-5) squared off against Central Wyoming College (5-17, 3-8) Friday night and Western Wyoming Community College (11-17, 5-7) Saturday afternoon — two teams Northwest had success against earlier in the season at Cabre Gym.
On the road, the Lady Trappers earned a split, falling to CWC in five sets before rebounding with a win at WWCC.
“Friday [at CWC] was kind of a disappointing loss, especially when we’re up two sets,” said NWC head coach Bethany Conde. “I give props to Central for not giving up and fighting all the way to the very end.”
CWC 3, Lady Trappers 2
Northwest got off to a hot start against the Lady Rustlers, and appeared poised for a sweep, winning the first two sets 25-19 and 25-21.
But somewhere between the second and third set, the wheels fell off. CWC cruised to a third set win 25-7, held off the Lady Trappers 25-20 in the fourth and won 15-9 in the fifth to steal the match.
“We won those first two sets fairly easily,” Conde said. “But that third set, we just fell apart. They just mentally could not get back into the game. When it comes down to it, Central just totally outplayed us those last three sets.”
Calling it a “mentality thing, not a skill thing.” Conde said that in the team huddle after the second set, she asked the team the “million-dollar question.”
“‘Can we finish?’ That’s what I asked,” she said. “I don’t know if they get lax, or maybe they didn’t expect the team to fight back. But this is a college team we’re playing; they’re going to fight back. We get down, and mentally they cannot get themselves out of it. It’s a mental block. But it happens.”
Still battling a foot injury she sustained earlier in the season, outside hitter Eirini Matsouka sat the first two sets. Conde was saving her for the Western game. The coach ended up using Matsouka sparingly in the final three sets, but it wasn’t enough to swing the match back in Northwest’s favor.
“I just don’t know what happened, to be honest,” Conde said.
Sophomore setter Jess Ruffing said the Lady Trappers became overconfident after the ease of the first two sets, and it came back to bite them.
“Central showed they wanted the game more than we did and they outworked us,” she said. “Our teamwork and mental toughness fell apart, which is frustrating, especially when that is what we’ve been focusing on.”
Tammy Maddock and Ruffing led the offense with 14 and 10 kills, respectively.
“Tammy did well that game — she had 14 kills and just three errors,” Conde said. “She and Shania Warren did the best in that area.”
Warren added eight kills, while Andjela Bublic finished with seven, Ruffing with six and Maddock five.
Three players finished in double digits in digs, led by Geena Graf with 18. Ruffing followed with 12 digs and Warren made 10. Demery Dean rounded out the top four with nine digs on the night to go along with her 23 assists. Kailee Becking was second in assists with 15.
Lady Trappers 3, WWCC 1
With a night to regroup, the Lady Trappers went back to being the team that’s shown so much promise of late. They won in four sets against Western Wyoming 25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 25-18. Western had beaten Sheridan the night before, so Conde knew the Lady Mustangs would be riding high off that win.
“I told our girls that Western is coming off a great win and we’re coming off a pretty bad loss,” Conde said. “What are you going to do about it?”
Conde said she was pleased overall with the Lady Trappers’ effort against Western, and proud of how they shook off the loss and regained focus.
“They [Lady Trappers] came out and they fought, and I’m pleased with how they came back,” she said. “We didn’t have to go a fifth set, which is always a plus.”
Warren was the kill leader with 15, followed by Matsouka and Bublic with 11 each. Other kills were credited to Maddock and Ruffing with four apiece.
“Shania [Warren] hit .500 in that match, which is great,” Conde said. “Eirini [Matsouka] came out and had 11 kills and one error. Andjela [Bublic] had six errors, but half of them were close — they were the right idea, just weren’t quite complete. Those three played really well.”
Graf and Matsouka led in digs with 17 and 10, respectively, while Bublic finished with nine and Ruffing with eight.
Ruffing also led the team in assists with 25, followed by Dean with 17.
“We really focused on coming out strong Saturday, resetting and showing that Friday night [against CWC] was a fluke,” Ruffing said. “And that’s what we did. We really turned it around and performed like we could.”
Added Conde, “Our team has struggled with mental toughness all season, so I think being able to bounce back and win against Western says a lot about how we’ve progressed in that aspect over the season.”
The Lady Trappers are back on the road this weekend with matches at Laramie County Community College (23-7, 16-4) and Eastern Wyoming (3-25, 2-18). Conde said she hopes the team that bounced back against Western is the team that makes the trip.
“It really is a question of what team is going to show up,” the coach said. “When we’re on, we look good, we do great things. But when it goes bad, it’s off the charts. That middle ground just isn’t there for us.”