After a pair of road losses against Sheridan and Casper over the weekend, the Northwest College volleyball team rebounded in a big way Tuesday, sweeping Miles Community College in three sets at Cabre Gym.
“The girls came out tonight playing smarter; I felt like they were doing what I was asking them to do,” said NWC head coach Bethany Conde. “I really think that was the big difference from the last time these two teams played.”
The Lady Trappers (9-8 overall, 2-3 in conference) won by scores of 25-21, 25-14, 25-12 — a vast difference from the five-set nail biter the team endured at MCC last month.
“The first set we were a little slower,” Conde said. “But they [the Lady Trappers] didn’t allow Miles to get five or six points ahead. They got sideouts much quicker, especially in that second and third set.”
Outside hitter Shania Warren had another dominating performance at the net, finishing with 13 kills and just one error. The sophomore leads the Region IX North in hitting percentage with a .323 average.
“Shania [Warren] has been performing pretty consistently,” Conde said. “Her ‘worst’ hitting percentage ... of the season would be some of our players’ best.”
Warren wasn’t the only Lady Trapper strong at the net. Eirini Matsouka had nine kills on the night, followed by eight by Tammy Maddock, five by Alex Dehl and four by Jess Ruffing.
“We stayed pretty constant the whole time,” Ruffing said. “There were very few times Miles got on a run. We started a little slow, but over the course of the first set, we picked up our level of play a little bit more.”
Dehl stepped in for teammate Andjela Bublic and had a solid night in her first start of the season.
“Alex Dehl, No. 16, came in and I thought she did a really good job stepping up and not making errors,” Conde said. “She got some digs, a handful of kills. I think she stepped up and played a good role out there.”
Dehl said communication between teammates was a key to the Lady Trappers’ success.
“We were well-disciplined and had a good mindset of ‘next play,’ working hard and moving forward,” she said. “As a team, we hope to bring that mindset with us for upcoming games, as well.”
Matsouka led the team in digs with 13, followed by eight from Geena Graf and six from Ruffing.
Though NWC had an easier time of it against the Lady Pioneers this time around, the game was punctuated by a number of long rallies, with neither team willing to yield.
“That’s something I think overall we’ve improved on since the beginning of the season, is winning those rallies,” Conde said. “Rallies are such momentum-makers or breakers, and it’s a bummer when you’re always on the other side of winning those. So I do think it helps to get that confidence to keep going when you’re able to win those.”
Conde set aside praise once again for MCC’s libero, Kailey Thomson, who had a significant impact against the Lady Trappers in their first meeting of the season.
“She [Thomson] is really good,” Conde said. “She reads the ball very well. But I feel maybe she wasn’t as strong tonight as she was when we played them before, which benefitted us. She’s strong, she’s solid back there.”
Coming off a pair of weekend losses that followed a four-game win streak, Conde was a bit concerned at what the team’s mindset would be going into Tuesday’s contest. It turns out she needn’t have worried.
“That mental side of the game, you can prepare them and think they’re ready to go, and then all bets are off when the game starts,” Conde explained. “But I had a good feeling at the beginning of the game. It’s amazing how during warmups, you’re thinking either, ‘Oh man, I don’t know about this,’ or you feel really positive. [On Tuesday,] I felt the energy, I felt positive.”
Tuesday’s win against MCC was only the third straight-set win the Lady Trappers have had all season, a fact not lost on the first-year coach.
“That’s not very many,” Conde said. “We’re playing four to five sets almost every time, and it’s hard when you play three games in five days. So I’m very pleased they got the job done in three.”
It will be another busy weekend for the Lady Trappers, as they host LCCC Friday night for the annual Dig Pink match, followed by a match Saturday against Eastern Wyoming. There are only two more home matches after this weekend.
“We had a good win tonight, this weekend will be about maintaining it,” Conde said Tuesday. “We need to come out expecting to win. It doesn’t matter who you play, step out with that confidence that you’re going to win. LCCC is going to be tough — if we don’t bring it, they’re going to take it.”
Sheridan 3, Lady Trappers 2
Despite three Lady Trappers finishing the game with double-digit kills, NWC saw its four-game winning streak end at Sheridan (9-8, 4-2) in a five-set slugfest Friday, 24-26, 27-25, 16-25, 25-23, 8-14.
Warren led the way for the Lady Trappers with 14 kills, followed by Maddock and Bublic with 11 each. Matsouka finished with nine kills and Ruffing added five.
Matsouka and Graf had a busy night, recording 17 digs each, while Ruffing led in assists with 24 and Demery Dean with 22.
“I keep telling the girls we’re not losing because of skill,” Conde said. “We’re losing because of the mental toughness aspect. I have nice girls. They’re very smart in the classroom, they’re great girls. But sometimes I want to tell them ‘Have a cocky air about you — it’s OK to be mean out there.’ I think at times they struggle with that. But we’re getting there. It’s how to push and not let a team push you back.”
Casper 3, Lady Trappers 1
Against Casper (8-13, 2-2) Saturday afternoon, the Lady Trappers dropped the first two sets 20-25 and 25-27 before dominating the third set 25-9 to get back in the game. The team was able to carry that momentum into the fourth set before losing it and the match 26-24.
Warren again led NWC with 15 kills, followed by Matsouka with 11 and Bublic with nine. Graf led the team with 21 digs, Bublic finished with 11 and Matsouka with nine.
Ruffing finished with 24 assists, while Dean added 16.
“We’re aiming for excellence, not perfection. There’s a difference,” Conde said. “You’re not perfect, I don’t expect you to be. But don’t settle. And I felt like this weekend, we just kind of settled.”