The Northwest College volleyball team wrapped up the home portion of its schedule over the weekend, earning impressive wins over a pair of division rivals.
Just two weeks earlier, the Lady Trappers dropped a pair of games on the road to Sheridan and Casper, losing 3-1 in each match.
Last weekend was a different story, as NWC was able to exact revenge, beating Sheridan Friday in four sets in front of a boisterous Sophomore Night crowd in the Cabre Gym. The Lady Trappers followed that with a 3-0 sweep of Casper on Saturday afternoon to close out a memorable weekend.
“The team actually played full matches to their potential,” said NWC head coach Bethany Conde. “I think that was the difference from the last time we played these teams. They [the Lady Trappers] played consistently throughout. They had their moments, but they were able to come back and keep pushing.”
Lady Trappers 3, Sheridan 1
Friday’s contest against Sheridan (11-10, 6-5) was the third time the two teams have squared off this season, with each team emerging with a hard-fought, five-set win. The rubber match went to the Lady Trappers (12-10, 6-4) in four sets, behind a strong showing at the net from Shania Warren and Eirini Matsouka. NWC won 25-18, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21.
“It was a huge turnaround [from the last meeting],” Conde said. “I do think having Sophomore Night and also having the family crowd there played a big part in that. They played a solid match. We saw glimpses of it when they played Casper previously, but it’s about maintaining that consistent play, and I think that’s what we did this weekend, which is all I can ask of them.”
The Lady Trappers cruised in the first set, but dropped the second, leaving the first-year head coach to briefly wonder if consistency would be compromised.
“I was a little concerned, because we had been in that spot before,” she said. “We struggled a bit in that second set, but it wasn’t like we completely fell apart like we have previously — it was a 21-25 loss, so we were right there. But beating a team like Sheridan 3-0 can be tough to do. It was more the third set that I focused on.”
Warren and Matsouka led the offense with 12 and 13 kills, respectively, to go along with three block assists from Warren. An outside hitter last season, Waren is new to the middle position, and has adapted quite well.
“Against Sheridan, Shania [Warren] had 12 kills and only three errors,” Conde said. “Against Casper, she had eight kills and zero errors out of 16 attempts. She has been so consistent; I don’t think she’s hit below a .200, which says a lot, especially in a new position for her that she’s never played. She’s done a great job in taking that role on this season.”
Andjela Bublic added seven kills, Jess Ruffing finished with six and Tammy Maddock had five.
Maddock and Warren had four solo blocks apiece, while Ruffing and Demery Dean each had 22 assists.
“It was nice to see everything click between everyone and for everyone to work hard, especially on Sophomore Night,” Dean said. “It made it a really fun game to play.”
Four players finished in double digits in digs, led by Geena Graf with 24. Matsouka followed with 23 digs and Ruffing made 21. Dean rounded out the top four with 10 digs on the night.
Lady Trappers 3, Casper 0
Matsouka continued to dominate at the net Saturday against Casper, leading NWC to a straight-set win over the Lady Thunderbirds 25-21, 25-12, 25-21.
“I feel like we blocked well that match,” Conde said. “I felt like some of Casper’s hitters were more timid swinging towards the end of the match. I feel like we started playing smarter, and I really feel like they just put it all together.”
Matsouka was the kill leader with 12, followed by Warren with eight, to go along with her four blocks.
“Eirini [Matsouka] against Casper had 12 kills, one error,” Conde said. “Against Sheridan, she had 13 kills and two errors. She just had an outstanding weekend.”
Further, the Lady Trappers had just eight hitting errors against Casper as a team.
“You can work your butt off and get 10 to 12 kills, but if your errors are about the same, it kind of cancels it out,” Conde said. “If the set’s not there, you can’t just swing as hard as you want, and I feel like they played smart in these games with the placement of the ball.”
Other kills were credited to Dean with six, Ruffing and Bublic with five each and Maddock with three. Maddock also had three solo blocks.
“I think us sophomores really wanted to leave our mark, and we did; last year we never beat Casper in three sets,” Ruffing said. “To do it this year felt great. I feel like I’ve really found my place here, so to see our season already coming to an end really makes me sad.”
Graf and Matsouka led in digs with 14 apiece, while Ruffing finished with nine and Bublic with seven. Ruffing also led the team in assists with 22, followed by Dean with 15.
“I think we really came together as one on the court, which is exactly what we needed,” said Maddock of the weekend’s games. “We were playing like we knew how, and executing what we’ve been working on [in practice].”
The weekend was significant, in that it was the final two games the six sophomores on the squad would play in Cabre Gym. For Maddock, it was a bittersweet end to a memorable two seasons.
“The moment the ball hit the floor on the last set, it hit me that it was our [the sophomores] very last game on the Trapper court,” she said. “I have made so many great friendships here, and it’s really sad the season is coming to an end. I was glad to end on two wins at home, and now I’m excited to take care of business the rest of the season heading into regionals.”
Dean, a fellow sophomore, agreed.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to show what we are capable of,” Dean said. “We proved that when we play together we can play really well, even though we might not be the tallest or able to hit the ball the hardest ... using our volleyball IQ and placing the ball where it needs to go, we will be able to win games.”
For Conde, the sophomores — Ruffing, Maddock, Dean, Warren, Bublic and Kailee Becking — have made her first year as a head coach a memorable one.
“They are a very flexible group,” she said. “I could put them anywhere, and I have. They’ll do whatever they need to for the betterment of the team, which makes it nice. It’s not about them. They show great leadership on and off the court. I’m very lucky in taking over when I did that these are the six sophomores that came back. I couldn’t ask for a better group.”
The Lady Trappers are on the road this weekend, with games Friday at Central Wyoming and Saturday at Western Wyoming. Northwest won the early matches against both this season in four sets, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be overlooked.
“I’m confident if the team shows up how they played this weekend,” Conde said. “But volleyball is a game of momentum and who shows up at the moment. You can’t overlook them by any means. If you give them that little bit of momentum, they’ll take it and run with it.”
Conde is hoping the momentum created last weekend will be enough to carry the Lady Trappers through.
“I’m really hoping that they got a taste of what it’s like, what they can do and actually believe they can do it,” the coach said. “It’s different from me telling them, or other people telling them that they’re good, but that they actually believe it. And that’s what they showed this weekend.”