Back in the friendly confines of Cabre Gym for only the second time this season Tuesday night, the Northwest College volleyball team didn’t disappoint, thrilling an enthusiastic crowd with a straight-set win over Rocky Mountain JV.
“Our fans are with us, and it’s been amazing to have two great crowds for both home matches we’ve played,” first-year head coach Valerie Rivera said about the dedicated group of Cabre Crazies. “I can’t wait for the end of October when we’re here for two straight weekends. Hopefully those crowds stay with us.”
Rivera said that, well ahead of the start of the contest, she had a good feeling about how the night would go.
“The girls came in ready to work,” said Rivera. From the time the nets went up around 5:30 p.m., “there was just a different energy, a different vibe in the room,” she said. “It was fun to see.”
The Lady Trappers (3-11, 2-4 in Region IX North) started fast, building early leads in each of the first two sets en route to 25-17 and 25-19 wins.
But Rocky wasn’t about to give up the third set without a fight. The Battlin’ Bears jumped out to a 6-0 lead and looked to be in control before Rivera called a timeout.
“… I told the girls, ‘Hey, this game is not over with. There’s no reason to wait for a fourth set — you are the better team. Take control and show them that,’” Rivera recounted.
Northwest responded, and battled back to take the third set and the match, 25-22.
“I told the girls to play every ball to the whistle; I don’t care how we get the ball over,” Rivera said. “It was just a great effort by everyone out there.”
Sophomore outside hitter Eirini Matsouka, still nursing an injury, came up huge for the Lady Trappers with 17 kills in 36 swings. She also had four digs and an ace on the night.
Outside hitter Sidney Ostergaard and middle blocker Molle Krum also played well at the net, finishing with 12 and nine kills, respectively.
“Eirini [Matsouka] was on fire, and I think it was probably our best showing for both her and Sidney [Ostergaard]. They both hit above .300,” Rivera said. “It was great, not only for Eirini coming back from an injury, but for Sidney to step up and excel as well.”
Rivera said Krum got off to a bit of a slow start the first two sets, but really came alive in the third when it was needed most.
“I don’t know why, but she [Krum] lit up at the perfect time,” Rivera said. “She sparked up right at the moment when we needed points to start that rally we needed to come back in the third.”
Rivera also praised the play of libero Geena Graf and the rest of the defense, a unit that has consistently been a highlight this season.
“Our defense are the ones who have been keeping us in matches,” Rivera said. “They come in for extra work all the time, so that they’ll know exactly where they’re supposed to be defensively.”
Graf and Ryan Blaylock each had four digs, while setter Kaylie Critchfield finished with 30 assists.
“Geena [Graf] is picking up a lot of balls behind the block, which is great,” Rivera said. “Because of that, teams aren’t going to go right at her. Ryan [Blaylock] has stepped up so much for us as well, coming in and doing the extra work, and Kaylie [Critchfield] is learning to adapt to play the defensive side of her position.”
Tuesday’s contest was only the second appearance at Cabre Gym for the Lady Trappers in a month’s worth of games; they won’t be back home again until Saturday, Oct. 5. With so many games on the road to start the 2019 campaign, Rivera said it’s been an adjustment to not be the visitor.
“Our home court is so foreign to us,” she said, laughing. “We’ve played two matches here now, and we’ve been able to defend it. But now we’re back on the road again this weekend, back to the normal. But we have to get slowly used to it, because October is loaded with home games. But we’ve shown we can protect our home court.”
The Lady Trappers are once again on the road this weekend, with matches scheduled against Western Wyoming Friday and Central Wyoming Saturday. Rivera said the team will work on its defensive touches this week.
“We need to do the little things right,” she said. “Sticking to our defense, trusting each other, being consistent. Those little things get done, we get the W.”
Snow College 3, Lady Trappers 0
The Lady Trappers fell to Snow College in straight sets on Friday, 20 25-12, 25-22, 25-21.
Matsouka led the team with 12 kills, followed by five from Krum.
Graf led in digs with six, while Blaylock added five and Critchfield four. Critchfield also had 14 assists.
Central Wyoming 3, Lady Trappers 2
The Lady Trappers gave Central Wyoming all they could handle Saturday, taking the Rustlers to five sets before losing 3-2 (19-25, 25-15, 25-23, 16-25, 11-15).
Two Lady Trappers finished in double-digits for kills, led by Matsouka with 17 and Ostergaard with 10. Krum was right behind with nine kills on the day.
Matsouka also led in digs with eight, followed by Blaylock with six and Critchfield with five.