It’s been a frustrating start to the 2019 season for the Northwest College volleyball team, dropping a pair of matches last week in Montana to Rocky Mountain JV Tuesday and Miles Community …
It’s been a frustrating start to the 2019 season for the Northwest College volleyball team, dropping a pair of matches last week in Montana to Rocky Mountain JV Tuesday and Miles Community College Wednesday.
The two losses gives the Lady Trappers an 0-6 overall record, having lost all four of their games at the Casper Volleyball Classic two weeks ago.
“I think right now, we’re at a little bit of a standstill,” said NWC interim head coach Valerie Rivera. “I think the team is trying to decide what they need in order for them to get over this hump, because they are playing great volleyball in spurts. We just haven’t been able to find the connection where we’re playing for a full 25 points. It’s been frustrating for everyone as they try to figure it out.”
The Lady Trappers opened the Casper Volleyball Classic with a straight-set loss to Miles Community College (25-23, 25-19, 25-19). That was followed by straight-set losses to Northeastern (25-14, 25-16, 25-18), Colby Community College (25-14, 25-15, 25-14), and Salt Lake Community College (25-15, 25-19, 25-14).
“Again, we were showing great spurts of volleyball that whole weekend,” Rivera said. “We statted the best against Northeastern, even though they were probably one of the more talented teams that we faced. We faced really tough competition against Salt Lake and Colby, but against Northeastern, our block just really showed up and was able to slow so many balls down. Our defense just continues to amaze me by picking up balls that I thought were down. Our defense is giving us a chance, but our offense that hasn’t been able to click. We just haven’t found that rhythm yet.”
Against Rocky on Tuesday, Aug. 27, the Lady Trappers pushed the Battlin’ Bears to four sets and won their first set of the season. After dropping the opening set 25-14, NWC battled back to win the second 25-23. The Lady Trappers kept it close in the third, falling 25-21, but Rocky closed out the match with a 25-13 win in the fourth.
“We had a bit of a lineup change in Billings, but we adapted really well,” Rivera said. “We played what I thought was really good volleyball. But again, when the going got tough and we got stuck in the rotation, we just couldn’t get out of it. ... I told the girls that this loss should hurt them, because this is a game we should have won. We out-worked and out-hit them; in the end, we just made more mistakes, which cost us.”
Wednesday’s rematch against Miles was another four-set contest, with MCC coming out on top 3-1. The Lady Pioneers won the first set 25-23, but NWC again rebounded in the second, winning it 25-18. MCC took the next two sets 26-24 and 25-20, but Rivera said she was pleased with the effort, especially on defense.
“Our block touched balls again, but not enough to slow things down,” the coach said. “Our defense was on fire, they kept us in that match the entire time. Every ball they were picking up.”
Eirini Matsouka led the way in kills for NWC with 17, followed by Sidney Ostergaard with 13 and Mollee Krum with nine.
Matsouka and Madyson Chavez tied for the lead in digs with 17, followed by Geena Graf with 14. Ryan Blaylock and Kaylie Critchfield finished with 12 digs apiece. Critchfield also had 37 assists.
“Our defense has been holding us in games for the last three games because they have this fire amongst themselves,” Rivera said. “They understand that blockers aren’t always going to touch every ball, but they [the defenders] are going to touch every single ball for them [the blockers].”
Rivera said all of her defenders have really stepped up, praising the play of Graf and Chavez at the libero spot and Blaylock, the newest member of the team and a Cody High School graduate.
“Ryan [Blaylock] just has this spark about her when she’s in the back row. She just understands the game,” she said. “All of our defenders go in and know they have a purpose that they need to pick up balls.”
Rivera went on to say the Lady Trappers have “very dynamic players” in the front row, it’s just a matter of getting the proper mindset to be successful. Bits and pieces of that were on display against MCC, and Rivera said it’s something the team can build on.
“Our offense still continues to struggle,” Rivera said. “We have to find that little bit of motivation or encouragement or fire to say ‘I’m done letting my teammates throw their bodies on the ground. Let me do that to the other side.’ When we did that in the second set, we were in control. Eirini [Matsouka] definitely stepped up as a leader on the offense. We just have to get them all to mesh.”
NWC will square off against MCC for the third time tonight (Tuesday) for the Lady Trappers’ home opener at Cabre Gym. Rivera is hoping that after two weeks’ worth of games on the road, playing in front of a friendly crowd will be just what the team needs.
“I’m trying to figure out what it is we need to practice and what is it that they need to hear that will fire them up and get them over this little hump,” Rivera said. “We will get there, but right now, it’s about who has the fire and the tenacity and the hunger for more — to not be complacent. To say ‘Hey, we’re done losing. We need to pick it up. We are a better team than this, and we can be successful.’”