After opening the 2018 season at the Casper Invitational last weekend, the Northwest College volleyball team played their first home match on Tuesday, falling to Rocky Mountain JV in a five-set thriller.
At the Casper Invite, the Lady Trappers went 1-2. They opened with a straight-set win over Colorado Northwestern CC before dropping the next two to Salt Lake CC and Northeastern Junior College.
“We came out Friday against Colorado Northwestern, and that was kind of a good game for us,” said first-year interim coach Bethany Conde. “We were able to get all of those first-game nerves out, kind of get a feel of what to expect. We played well against NJC and Salt Lake. There were a couple of sets that weren’t so close, but for the most part, we played right there with them.”
Against Rocky Mountain on Tuesday, however, Conde said it was a game that easily should have gone a different way.
“I’m disappointed, because they [Rocky Mountain] didn’t do anything to us that should cause us to be in this spot,” Conde said. “The problems were on our side of the net. They [Rocky Mountain] had some good hits, but our mistakes on our side is what hurt us.”
Rocky Mountain JV 3, Lady Trappers 2
In the first contest of the season at Cabre Gym, the Lady Trappers came out strong in the first set against the Lady Bears, winning 25-18. Rocky Mountain took the second set 25-23, while NWC won the third 25-19. Down 2-1, the Lady Bears won back-to-back sets 25-13 and 15-13 to take the match. The deciding fifth set was an exciting one, with the teams exchanging leads almost point-for-point until the end.
“It is a disappointing loss, even if it’s early on,” Conde said. “But we’re making some high school mistakes; we’re at that next level. I can handle mistakes, but there are definitely some we shouldn’t be making.”
Eirini Matsouka led the Lady Trappers in kills and digs with 19 and 15, respectively. Tammy Maddock finished with 14 kills to go along with five blocks, while Jess Ruffing led the team in assists with 30. Ruffing also recorded 10 kills, 11 digs and seven blocks on the night.
“We had a lot of ups and downs,” said Ruffing of the team’s performance. “We made a lot of simple errors—we gave the other teams points instead of making them earn their own.”
Setter Demery Dean also finished with 11 digs to go along with 21 assists, while liberos Geena Graf and Madyson Chavez had nine digs apiece.
Conde said she was pleased with the play in the first and third sets.
“That really is where we are as a team,” Conde said of the winning sets. “But this is a loss we shouldn’t have had. I can handle losing. There are some teams you play where you’re just happy to compete and hold your own. Here, it’s not that they [Lady Trappers] didn’t try or give a 100 percent, because they did. But it’s that mentally playing smart — that’s how we’re going to win games. We’re not the biggest or the strongest per se, but we are going to be smart.”
Defensively, Conde said the Lady Trappers are solid in the back row, though serve receive was “a little iffy.”
“We struggled a little bit there [with serve receive], but defensively, I’m very happy with our back row,” she said. “That I feel they did really well at.”
Conde said hitting efficiency was low during the Casper Invite, so she was encouraged, based off what she saw against Rocky, that those numbers continue to rise. She would also like to see improvement in serving and communication.
“We had a couple of balls hit the ground because of miscommunication,” she said. “We can’t have that. Those are the mistakes that we need to clean up on our side.”
“This week we are focusing on the basics—things like hitting aggressively, executing free balls and having smart but aggressive serves,” Ruffing said. “We are really focusing on controlling our side and minimizing simple errors.”
Lady Trappers 3, CNCC 0
The Lady Trappers beat Colorado Northwestern in straight sets to start the season at the Casper Invite, winning 25-10, 25-16, 25-20.
Matsouka led the way in kills with 17, followed by Ruffin and Shania Warren with 14. Maddock finished with 12 kills, while Alex Dehl added 11.
Matsouka also led in digs with 19, followed by Graf with 15 and Chavez with 11. Ruffin had 18 assists and two service aces.
Salt Lake CC 3, Lady Trappers 0
After a strong start in Casper, the Lady Trappers stumbled against Salt Lake CC, losing in three sets, 25-11, 25-17, 25-21.
Maddock led the team in kills with eight, followed by Ruffing with six and Matsouka with three. Matsouka led in digs with 10, followed by Madyson Chavez with five, and Ruffing led in assists with 12.
NJC 3, Lady Trappers 0
The Lady Trappers closed out the Casper Invite with a straight-set loss to Northeastern Junior College, 25-20, 25-20, 25-13.
Maddock and Caitlyn Costa led in kills with eight apiece, followed by Warren with five. Ruffing had 18 assists and four digs to go along with three kills, while Matsouka led in digs with six.
The Lady Trappers head to Sheridan on Friday for the Sheridan Volleyball Classic, with games scheduled against a pair of Montana teams: Dawson Community College and Miles Community College.
“I have confidence in this team,” Conde said of the Lady Trappers. “I know it’s there. But we have to learn to play with some consistency. It’s really hard to improve when your level of play is bouncing all over the place.”
“They really are a hard-working group of kids,” the coach added. “I know we’ll get there.”