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Trapper volleyball turns tide against Rustlers

Felicity Zegarelli’s first-set performance against Central Wyoming was forgettable, especially after she followed it with three sets of memorable and timely play that helped lead the Northwest Trappers to a win Tuesday night.

Zegarelli led NWC to a 20-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-15 victory Tuesday night in the Cabre Gym.

The sophomore outside hitter was pulled midway through the first-set loss after failing to record a kill and committing three errors, but she rebounded in the second set and finished the night with 14 kills, seven errors, eight digs, two aces and no service errors.

Head coach Shaun Pohlman said he benched Zegarelli and the two “talked about where her mind was.”

Freshman Inoa Fields replaced Zegarelli and got two kills in two attempts. Pohlman could have stood pat, leaving the struggling starter on the sidelines, but the coach gave Zegarelli another chance.

He told her, “you tell me when you’re ready.”

Right before the first set ended, Zegarelli walked up to Pohlman and said, “I’m ready for the next game.”

“We believe in our players and we know they are capable,” Pohlman said. “If they come out and they’re not in the right mindset ... I’ll give them that other chance.”

That second opportunity helped boost the Trappers (1-0, 6-5 overall) over the Central Wyoming Rustlers in their first conference game of the season.

“We figured out what we needed on Saturday (a four-set loss to No. 2-ranked Western Nebraska),” Pohlman said. “The fact is we really have discovered what’s necessary for us to be successful this year.”

But it wasn’t easy for the Trappers.

“You can see since we lost on the first set we’re not perfect at it; there’s still more lessons to be learned,” he said.

Northwest tied the match with a 25-22 victory in set two, but didn’t bring any of that momentum over to the third set. Central Wyoming jumped on the Trappers and took a 7-2 lead in the set that would ultimately tilt the match.

Then Northwest sophomore Kayla Van Hee stepped back to serve and the home team never looked back.

Van Hee served 15 straight points (including two aces) and the Trappers roared back to take a 17-7 lead.

“That’s absolutely amazing,” Pohlman said. “She served every location on the court. She really just took hold of the game and it lifted us up.”

The Rustlers were never the same and lost 25-13, 25-15 in the match’s final two sets.

Sophomore setter Mikaela Heble continued her recent string of strong play with a 50-assist (12.5 assists per set), six dig, one solo block performance.

Pohlman said “as long as (Heble) stays on this course” the Trappers’ offense is in good hands.

Freshman Elisa Brooks led the Trappers with 23 digs as the team’s libero. Sophomore Ana Jakovljevic had 16 and Zegarelli had eight.

Jakovljevic led the Trappers with 18 kills, followed by Zegarelli’s 14, and freshman middle blocker Krystalyn Sloan’s eight.

Sloan was efficient on offense, notching her eight kills without any errors on 10 attempts. She also led the team with two solo blocks and four assists.

Northwest had 10 total blocks.

“That’s where we want to be as a team,” Pohlman said.

The Trappers continue conference play Friday against Western Wyoming (12-1), the No. 5-ranked team in the nation. Western Wyoming ranks in the nation’s top 20 in kills, block assists and total attacks, in the top 10 in assists and digs and in the top five in solo and total blocks.

Playing ranked teams is nothing new to Northwest. The Trappers have already played against Western Nebraska (No. 2), Southern Idaho (No. 8), Snow College (No. 13) and New Mexico Military (No. 18).

Northwest is one of seven other teams to have also received votes.

Friday’s game will start at 7 p.m. at Northwest College’s Cabre Gym.

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