Of the four teams the Northwest College volleyball team squared off against last weekend, three are currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation — a tall order for a young team with a first-year head coach.
But while NWC returned from the College of Southern Idaho Invitational in Twin Falls, Idaho, with a 1-3 record, the team was competitive in every match. Head coach Bethany Conde said that fact is a testament to how hard this team has worked.
“We finished 1-3, but we took [No. 6] Snow and [No. 4] Salt Lake to four sets,” Conde said. “I think being able to take a set away from two nationally ranked teams is a good starting point.”
The Lady Trappers were swept by host CSI (currently ranked No. 3) — though the games were close — then ended the tournament on a high note by beating Southwestern Oregon Community College.
“I told the girls after the weekend, ‘Don’t be content with that, it’s not good enough,’” Conde said. “But it’s a good start.”
Snow College 3, Lady Trappers 1
The Lady Trappers opened the tournament against Snow College, losing the first set 25-18 before rebounding to win the second, 25-22. The Lady Badgers took the next two games 25-20 and 26-24 to win the match.
“I would say that was probably our best match of the tournament,” Conde said. “I was very pleased with how they played. We’ve really been working on mental toughness, that mental side of the game, not letting anything hit the floor without effort. And in this match, they bought into that.”
Sophomore Jess Ruffing led the Lady Trappers with 12 kills to go along with 19 assists, followed by Shania Warren and Andjela Bublic with nine kills apiece.
Demery Dean finished with 16 assists, while libero Geena Graf led in digs with 21,
followed by Eirini Matsouka with 20.
The Lady Trappers “came out from the very beginning and played very well,” Conde said.
CSI 3, Lady Trappers 0
Against the host Lady Golden Eagles, NWC was competitive but outmatched, losing in straight sets 25-17, 25-12, 25-17.
“We played OK,” Conde said. “Still not to our potential, but OK. We came out slow, and we tend to get ourselves dug in a hole, so that we have to work hard to get out of it. The second set was rough, we couldn’t do anything on our side. I had three hitters hitting in the negative, and when you do that, I don’t care who you’re playing, you’re not going to see success on your side of the floor.”
Ruffing again led the Lady Trappers in kills with eight, to go along with 11 assists and five digs. Shania Warren and Tammy Maddock finished with six and five kills, respectively, while Graf led in digs with nine and Dean and Matsouka added seven each.
“Shania Warren had a phenomenal match, they couldn’t block her,” Conde said. “The first and the third set, we got to 17. That second set was rough, we could have done more than 12. But the girls played hard.”
Salt Lake CC 4, Lady Trappers 1
Against SLCC, the Lady Trappers got off to a slow start, dropping the first two sets 25-14 and 25-12. Northwest stormed back in the third, however, winning 25-22. The Lady Trappers made it interesting in the fourth set before falling 25-18.
“This was our second time playing Salt Lake, so we kind of knew what to expect,” Conde said. “Our first two sets, well, we’re a slow-starting team. But we won the third set, and the fourth was much closer. But I actually think we played them much better the first time we played them. But the little errors, that’s really what’s hurting us right now.”
Maddock, Warren, Matsouka and Bublic all finished with seven kills apiece, while Ruffing had five kills to go along with 17 assists and eight digs. Dean and Caitlyn Costa each had 14 assists, while Matsouka and Graf led with 13 digs each.
“The things holding us back are fixable,” Conde said. “They are things we can change; we just need to keep working on them.”
Lady Trappers 3, Southwestern Oregon 1
Northwest closed out the tournament on a high note, beating the Lady Raccoons in four sets. The Lady Trappers took the first set 25-23 before dropping the second set 25-23. NWC took the next two 27-25 and 25-22 to win the match.
“It was a close match all four sets,” Conde said. “And I think in three of the sets we literally were down 1-6 or 1-7 right off the bat. But ... the girls were able to come back from that. That fight to win was there, which is always good to see.”
Ruffing led the team in kills with 12, followed by Maddock and Matsouka with 11 and Bublic with seven. Matsouka led in digs with 19, followed by Graf with 17 and Ruffing with 14. Ruffing also led in assists with 27, followed by Dean with 19.
“The great thing is we know what we need to fix, and everyone is on board with fixing it,” Conde said of the lessons learned in Twin Falls over the weekend. “That’s what we’re focused on this week. If we can get that part figured out, the rest of it will eventually fall into place.”
The Lady Trappers are off until Sept. 19, when they travel to Miles City, Montana, to take on the Lady Pioneers.