The Trappers beat No. 5 Western Wyoming in the match’s first set, but dropped the next three, including a heartbreaking third set, to lose 25-16, 13-25, 24-26,15-25 to fall to 6-6 on the season.
Head coach Shaun Pohlman said his team’s play was more than enough to win at times, but the Trappers suffered from too many lulls.
“It’s consistency,” Pohlman said. “I’d rather play bad in the first set and win the next three.”
The loss gives the Trappers a 1-1 conference record and an 0-4 record against ranked opponents. Still, Pohlman said he believes his team belongs in the discussion with the nation’s top teams.
“I don’t think anybody in this gym leaving tonight felt like we weren’t capable of winning,” Pohlman said. “I think our fans and our people still feel like we’re right there.”
After trading the first two sets 25-16, 13-25, Northwest found itself in a back-and-forth battle in the match-tilting third set.
Neither team led by more than three at any point of the 26-24 Western Wyoming victory.
Sophomore Ana Jakovljevic served consecutive aces and the Trappers led 3-1 in the set’s early going but weren’t able to pull away from the Mustangs (12-3).
A Jakovljevic kill tied the set at 12 but a Trapper service error gave the advantage back to Western Wyoming.
Jakovljevic finished the game with 18 kills (with nine errors on 38 attempts) and 13 digs for her second-straight double-double.
Unforced errors cost the Trappers a few points in the momentum-shifting third set. A net violation put the Mustangs up three on a play that should have cut Western’s lead to one.
The Trappers’ offense started clicking with Northwest down 16-19. Two kills by freshman middle blocker Vera Horstmann, one by freshman Krystalyn Sloan and another by Jakovljevic helped the Trappers tie the game at 23.
Sloan had seven kills and three errors on 14 attempts. Horstmann had seven kills and three errors on 19 attempts.
A double violation on the Mustangs put Northwest up 24-23, its first lead since 6-5, and only one point away from taking a two-sets-to-one advantage. But the Trappers couldn’t slam the door, and instead gave up three straight points to lose 24-26.
Pohlman knew it would be a tall task to win consecutive sets after losing an emotional game.
“Had we won that (third set) I really believe the outcome could have been different,” Pohlman said. “It was such an emotional situation.”
Northwest won the first set despite falling behind 6-1. A 13-4 run put the Trappers up 14-10 and forced Western Wyoming to call a timeout. But Northwest didn’t let up, and outscored the Mustangs 9-4 the rest of the way.
The Trappers closed the first set with a monster kill from Sloan and then a well-timed tip from sophomore setter Mikaela Heble gave them a 25-16 win.
Northwest’s passing took a dive in the second set, sending their serving aces to reception errors ratio spiraling down from 3 to .25.
“Our passing just completely diminished in the second set,” Pohlman said.
Heble had two kills to go along with 33 assists on 104 attempts and five digs.
Freshman libero Elisa Brooks was Northwest’s digs leader with 19. Sophomore Kayla Van Hee added 11.
Sophomore outside hitter Felicity Zegarelli struggled in just three sets of play. She had only one kill and seven errors on 25 attempts for a negative .240 kill percentage. She also had seven digs.
“I think the pass made the set troublesome, the set made the hits troublesome, and she got the brunt end of it all because she’s responsible for terminating the ball,” Pohlman said.
Freshman Inoa Fields replaced Zegarelli in the fourth and final set and record two kills and four errors on nine attempts and two block attempts.
Freshman Jamila Biglow had four block assists to lead the Trappers. Sloan and Horstmann had three each.
Northwest had 14 team block assists and one solo block.
The Mustang block gave the Trappers fits in the match’s first two sets. Western Wyoming had 20 block assists and two solo blocks.
“They’re a real good blocking team,” Pohlman said. “When you’re stuck setting the outside and you got two people camping on you, that’s the way it’s going to go.”
The Trappers head to Scottsbluff, Neb., Friday for games against Lamar College and No. 2 Western Nebraska (12-1). The team will play in Torrington Saturday morning against Seward College and then again in Scottsbluff against McCook College.