Decked out in pink uniforms for the team’s annual “Dig Pink” weekend, the Northwest College volleyball team welcomed in a pair of division rivals to Cabre Gym, with mixed results.
Friday night’s contest against Laramie County Community College saw the Lady Trappers fall to the Golden Eagles in straight sets, 25-19, 25-18, 25-9. The win gives LCCC a perfect 6-0 record in the Region IX North division.
Northwest bounced back Saturday with a renewed focus, sweeping Eastern Wyoming College in three sets 25-20, 25-17, 25-23.
“I felt like they [NWC] had more belief in themselves on Saturday,” said NWC head coach Bethany Conde. “Just that positive mindset that was missing, I think, against LCCC.”
LCCC 3, Lady Trappers 0
The Lady Trappers (10-9, 3-4 in Region IX) got off to a slow start against the Region IX North-leading Golden Eagles (17-7, 10-4 in Region IX) and never quite recovered, losing in three sets.
“LCCC came out to play,” Conde said. “We came out that first set a little sluggish.”
NWC appeared to shake off the sluggish first set as they began the second, grabbing a nine-point lead. But the Golden Eagles battled back, taking the second set 25-18.
“Unfortunately we just could not get the job done,” Conde said. “That second set was a huge disappointment.”
The third set proved costly, as outside hitter Eirini Matsouka went down with a sprained ankle. The freshman from Athens, Greece, sat out Saturday’s game against Eastern Wyoming (she has since been cleared to play). The injury seemed to take the wind out of the Lady Trappers’ sails, as they fell 25-9 in the final set.
“Eirini [Matsouka]’s injury threw the team off,” Conde said. “It was putting different girls in different positions, and after that, they just couldn’t get the hang of it.”
Conde told the team not to dwell on the loss, but she definitely felt the team could have finished with a better showing.
“I told the girls we should have went at least four [sets] with them,” she said. “We should have won that second set. That’s the set that I’m focused on at that point on that game. But we will see them again, so that’s a positive outlook on that.”
Shania Warren led the offense with five kills to go along with a pair of block assists. Matsouka, Tammy Maddock and Jess Ruffing finished with four kills apiece. The team combined to serve four aces.
Ruffing made 11 digs, followed by Geena Graf with nine, Matsouka with seven and Demery Dean with six.
“In our match Friday against LCCC, we started out a bit slow,” said Ruffing. “Our confidence wasn’t there, and we weren’t putting the ball away. ... This is something we have struggled with and have been working on. We need to learn to finish a game and keep pushing — it’s not over until we reach 25.”
Lady Trappers 3, EWC 0
Saturday’s contest against Eastern Wyoming (2-22, 1-14 in Region IX) had a different feel, as several Lady Trappers made their debut at different positions. The adjustment seemed to work, with NWC winning in straight sets.
“I had girls playing positions they typically don’t play,” Conde said. “I had a setter hitting the outside and not even set. Then I had my other setter, who usually only plays back row, play all the way around.”
Saturday’s match also featured an expanded role for sophomore setter Kailee Becking.
“Kailee [Becking] hasn’t seen a lot of court time for us this year, but she stepped in and did a great job for us on that side as well,” Conde said. “I think everybody pulled together, and I’m proud that they won in three.”
Though playing out of position was an adjustment, it was one the team embraced wholeheartedly, according to Ruffing.
“We came into Saturday’s game with confidence and effort knowing that we were all doing our best for the whole team,” Ruffing said. “Even though some of us weren’t playing our number one position, we gave our 100 percent effort.”
Freshman Caitlyn Costa agreed.
“... Everyone stayed calm and did their job,” Costa said. “We went in as a single unit and we won as a team.”
Asked the difference between Friday’s loss against LCCC and Saturday’s match, Conde said Northwest felt a little more pressure playing LCCC. Against the Eastern Wyoming Lancers, “I felt like the girls had more of a sense of calmness over them,” Conde said. “I felt better ... as far as just trying to control those nerves — keeping the excitement contained so it doesn’t affect your play. I think sometimes against teams like LCCC, because they’re a different kind of rival, [the Lady Trappers] show that excitement a little bit more instead of just sitting back and playing. I felt like they did that better against Eastern Wyoming.”
EWC got off to a fast start in the first set, “but I wasn’t too worried about it,” Conde said. “I figured it would take us a little bit of time to get the feel of the game. Once they got that figured out, it wasn’t a problem.”
Ruffing was the kill leader with 12, followed by Warren with eight. Other kills were credited to Maddock with four and three each for Caitlyn Costa and Dean.
“[Ruffing] came out at the beginning of the year very strong,” Conde said. “The last four or five games she hasn’t been the presence she was before, so it was really nice to see her step up in that role and get that back.”
Graf led in digs with 11, while Dean and Becking finished with seven apiece. Dean also led the team in assists with 20, followed by Becking with 11.
“Demery Dean, she’s really stepped up playing front row,” Conde said. “She’s 5’6, maybe 5’7, never really saw front row until this season. But she gets up there and blocks. She’s doing well.”
Conde praised the effort of all her players, especially the ones who were playing out of position.
“I have a lot of girls who are willing to do whatever they need to for the betterment of the team,” she said. “It’s nice to have that flexibility so that when an injury does occur, I know I can put girls in different positions and they’ll do the best they can. As a coach, that’s all I can ask for.”
With just six games remaining in the regular season (the final four on the road), Conde is looking to her sophomores to provide leadership. The final two home games at Cabre Gym are scheduled for Friday and Saturday against Sheridan and Casper, and the sophomores will be honored before those games.
“The sophomores really understand the importance of these last few games going into the region tournament,” Conde said. “It will be important for them to get the freshmen into the right mindset.”
Northwest has split with Sheridan this season, with both games going to five sets. Conde expects the rubber match to be just as hard-fought.
“We played them both times at their place, so hopefully the home crowd will get the [NWC] girls going,” Conde said. “They can do it — they just have to start off strong from the beginning and just believe in themselves.”