The Northwest College volleyball team is riding a hot streak of late, winning four straight matches dating back to Sept. 8. The Lady Trappers just finished their busiest week of the Region IX schedule, winning three matches in four days over Miles Community College, Central Wyoming College and Western Wyoming.
“They are doing well; I’m very pleased,” said Lady Trappers head coach Bethany Conde. “One thing I really stressed this last week, having three games in four days and not taking care of business when you should, resulting in playing 13 sets in the four days, which is a lot of volleyball. ... If you can win in three [sets], you need to, you have to when you’re playing back-to-back, because it’s just so hard on your body.”
Lady Trappers 3, Miles CC 2
NWC’s week began Wednesday on the road against Miles Community College, with the Lady Trappers winning a hard-fought, five-set battle 15-25, 25-21, 25-9, 25-27, 15-6. Conde thought the game probably could have been won in fewer sets, but for an inspired performance by MCC’s libero, Kailey Thomson.
“Do I necessarily think it should have gone five? No,” Conde said. “However, I do give MCC credit, their libero did an amazing job that night. She was digging everything — my hitters were having a hard time putting the ball down, so kudos to her. I thought she played phenomenal.”
The Lady Trappers got off to a slow start, dropping the first set to MCC 15-25. NWC rallied to win the next two, but with an opportunity to close out the match in the fourth set, came up just short 25-27. The Lady Pioneers ran out of steam at that point, as the Lady Trappers cruised to a 15-6 deciding set. Conde said her team needs to continue working on consistency and closing out sets.
“I was very pleased that even when they [NWC] were down, they were able to fight and win that fifth set,” she said. “The glimpses of greatness were there, but it’s that consistent play. My biggest thing was how do you win 25-9, but then come back and get down by seven or eight points? They have to learn to come off of each set and come out with intensity, whether we won or we lost.”
Lady Trapper setter Jess Ruffing, who finished the match with 19 assists, said a lack of focus contributed to the team’s slow start.
“In our set against Miles, we simply didn’t show up mentally,” Ruffing said. “We started out slow, and when Miles showed up right from the beginning, we weren’t prepared.”
Miscommunication also played a part, something the Lady Trappers will continue to work on moving forward.
“Along with struggling mentally, we also had simple errors that we had complete control of,” said NWC middle blocker Tammy Maddock, who led the Lady Trappers with 12 kills. “It was all little things that we could fix, such as basic skills and communication. I really think that as we focus on communication, everything else will come.”
Eirini Matsouka led the team with 12 digs, followed by 11 digs from Andjela Bublic. Shania Warren led with four blocks.
Lady Trappers 3, Central Wyoming 1
Friday night’s matchup against Central Wyoming (2-12, 0-2) was Red Out Night at Cabre Gym, and the Lady Trappers didn’t disappoint, winning the match in four sets 25-19, 25-19, 10-25, 25-20.
“That game went really well for us, everyone wore red during the day, and they carried that into the stands that night,” Conde said of the campus community. “It was a really good crowd, it’s good for the girls to be able to play their home games in front of a big crowd like that.”
NWC eschewed its traditionally slow start, quickly taking the first two sets. The Lady Rustlers, however, wouldn’t leave without a fight, dominating the third set 25-10. The Lady Trappers were able to shake off the lopsided loss to win the fourth and deciding set 25-20.
“Usually we struggle in the first two sets, we’re just slower at getting going,” Conde explained. “But the first two, we did really well. We came out and it was more of the finishing. We got to 22 and we let them score four or five points before we finished the game.”
Conde said the third set got away from the Lady Trappers, a combination of errors that are easily adressed.
“Thankfully, those errors are things that you can control,” she said. “It was a good learning experience — they came back and did much better in that fourth set. But that third set shouldn’t have happened like that. Whether we won or lost, the score shouldn’t have been 25-10. We’re a better team than that.”
Shania Warren led the team in kills with 14, followed by 10 from Bublic. Matsouka once again paced the Lady Trappers with 21 digs, followed by Jess Ruffing with 12.
“Eirini [Matsouka] has been doing a great job overall for front row but also on the defensive side,” Conde said. “She’s been just a great all-around player. She’s very consistent on serve receive, and I’m very confident when she’s in the back row that we’re going to get the ball where it needs to be.”
Maddock had eight kills to go along with three aces, four digs and four blocks.
Ruffing had 21 assists on the night, while Demery Dean added 17.
Lady Trappers 3, Western Wyoming 1
Against Western Wyoming (5-12, 0-3) Saturday afternoon, the Lady Trappers were starting to feel the effects of playing three games in four days. That said, the team worked hard to eliminate the issues that plagued them the night before, taking the Lady Mustangs in four sets 25-20, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19.
“The girls were tired; they had just played a five-set game on Wednesday, then a four-set game on Friday,” Conde said. “But overall, I was very pleased. I saw something I thought we did much better that match overall, which was eliminating those errors. We were winning those longer rallies that a lot of times we tend to lose because of those little mistakes.”
Conde said the Lady Trappers played smarter volleyball, calling it “one of the best games in the sense of eliminating the little errors.”
“They [the Lady Trappers] were swinging 100 percent when they should be, and if they were off, they were making those adjustments,” she said. “I really feel like right now our region is up for grabs, and I think it’s going to come down to the mental side of the game, eliminating mistakes. We just need to keep playing smart.”
The Lady Trappers were a killing machine against WWCC, led by outside hitter Shania Warren with 16 kills. The sophomore has been a force to be reckoned with the last few games, putting up some impressive stats, according to Conde.
“Shania Warren has been dominating at the net,” Conde said. “She hit over .500 against Miles with no errors, and against Central, she had 14 kills on 23 swings. Against Western, she had 16 kills on 29 swings. She right now is our most consistent hitter. She’s getting kills no matter where she’s at on the floor. As a hitter, she has really been standing out.”
Conde also praised her setters for getting Warren and teammates Bublic (14 kills), Ruffing (10 kills) and Maddock (eight kills) the ball.
“That’s something I’ve talked to my setters about, you have to see who’s on,” Conde said. “If somebody’s on, you keep feeding them the ball. Our setters are doing a better job acknowledging who and when to get the ball to.”
Geena Graf and Matsouka finished the game with 17 and 14 digs, respectively.
“I think this weekend’s games against Central and Western went fairly well,” Graff said. “There were certain sets where we lost it as a team, but we made a comeback and came out on top.”
Demery Dean added 13 digs, and also led the team in assists with 30, followed by 23 from Ruffing. Dean said the team has been working on letting go of mistakes from earlier sets and concentrating on the game in front of them.
“I felt like this weekend we were able to apply some of the things that we were working on in practice, like not giving up and giving it everything we have,” Dean said. “We’ve been working on being mentally strong, and I think it has really helped us to really just let things go and work hard to win the next point or game.”
The Lady Trappers are on the road this weekend, with conference matches against Sheridan College (7-8, 2-2) Friday night and Casper College (7-12, 1-1) Saturday. Conde said she’d like to see the team maintain that level of play they demonstrated against Western Wyoming.
“I’d like to not have any mental breakdowns, where we’re causing all these errors to occur,” she said. “[Sheridan and Casper] are both good enough teams that if you do that, they will take it and run with it. So that’s it really, maintain that high level of play throughout the whole game.”
“We were playing decent, but we couldn’t play to the best of our ability because our mental toughness was struggling,” the sophomore said. “In these next few games and practices we are really focusing on remaining mentally tough.”