The Northwest College volleyball team was finally back home over the weekend, but was unable to tap into that Cabre Gym magic, losing a pair of close contests to Western Wyoming Friday and Central Wyoming Saturday.
Though not the results the Lady Trappers were hoping for, both contests were a battle. NWC took Western to five sets before losing 3-2 (19-25, 25-12, 16-25, 25-23, 15-7).
“It was a tough weekend in [terms] of the results. However, I think we played some of our best volleyball during our match against Western Wyoming,” said NWC head coach Valerie Rivera. “Western Wyoming is no easy team by any means and the fact that we were able to take them to five says a lot about the grit we showed that night.”
Saturday’s game against Central was another close contest, going to four sets (26-24, 22-25, 17-25, 27-29) before the Lady Rustlers claimed the win.
“Against Central Wyoming we just couldn’t get into a flow after the first set,” Rivera said. “Both were losses that I think showed us that the team with the hustle will ultimately come out on top.”
Against the Lady Mustangs (21-9, 9-1 in Region IX North) Friday, NWC went back and forth with the top team in the conference, proving they can hang with the best when they’re on their game.
“The aspects that I liked about our game against Western was watching players step up and say, ‘Alright, you want to swing hard at my team, well then your team is about to receive it from our end,’” Rivera said.
Outside hitter Eirini Matsouka had an outstanding night against Western, leading the Lady Trappers with 21 kills. Mollee Krum followed with 11 kills, while Madyson Chavez finished with seven on the night.
Ryan Blaylock led in digs with 18, followed by Chavez with 12. Kaylie Critchfield had 33 assists, while Blaylock, Chavez and Krum served two aces apiece.
“We were led by Eirini Matsouka and Mollee Krum offensively and defensively by Ryan Blaylock,” Rivera said. “All of them did their job at a higher level that night and the scores reflect that.”
Things got a little chippy against Central on Saturday, pushing the Lady Trappers to once again stand their ground and fight back. The end result was the same as the night before, but Rivera said her team showed grit and resolve.
“My team didn’t back down from the challenge,” Rivera said. “Central Wyoming has this attitude about their team and they display it throughout the match. My girls finally had enough of being badgered through the net that they decided that we are swinging hard and hopefully it causes some damage.”
Krum and Matsouka led the charge on offense, finishing with 18 kills and 17 kills, respectively. Caitlyn Costa added six kills, while Critchfield had 33 assists.
Blaylock once again topped the team in digs with 15, followed by Geena Graf with seven. Matsouka and Chavez added five digs apiece. Matsouka led the team with two aces.
Krum and Critchfield “stood out for us,” coach Rivera said. “They were able to find connections all over the court in ... a setter and middle connection.”
The Lady Trappers will close out the regular season at home this weekend, with games against Eastern Wyoming Friday night and LCCC Saturday afternoon. Friday night is Sophomore Night, and NWC will honor its four sophomores: Caitlyn Costa, Madyson Chavez, Eirini Matsouka and Geena Graf.
Rivera said this sophomore class was a special one, on and off the court.
“The sophomores brought experience with them,” she said. “They showed resilience, because they haven’t had the most structure in means of coaching, but they adapted well to me and my leadership style. I believe they took everything in stride in [terms] of my expectations in the classroom, weight room and the gym.”
Rivera added that she’s enjoyed watching the players progress — and she’ll do all she can to help them move on to a four-year school if they want to continue their volleyball careers.
“Currently, we are trying to figure out their next moves and what doors they would like opened in means of playing on,” she said. “I make a promise to those who commit to play for me and that is, give me 100 percent every day and I will do everything possible to get you to the next level if that is what you choose.”