TORRINGTON – Despite being handed their first loss of the season, first-year Eastern Wyoming College volleyball coach Dante Geoffrey saw more positives than negatives in a 3-2 (25-15, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 15-9) loss to the Western Nebraska Community College Cougars on Tuesday evening in Torrington.
“There was way, way, way more good to be taken away from this match than negatives,” Geoffrey said. “At the end of the day, we played more good volleyball than bad. It wasn’t quite enough, but that shouldn’t change our belief system in how we play.”
The Lady Lancers dug themselves in a 2-0 hole, and in the third set, EWC started playing like Geoffrey said he knows they are capable.
In the third, an attack error by Western Nebraska gave the Lady Lancers an early 1-0 lead.
The Lady Cougars only led once in the set, following an ace, but EWC responded with two straight points to regain the lead.
“We finally started playing the way we know we can play, the way we want to play, the way we train to play,” he said.
The Lady Lancers survived a late push by WNCC in the third set.
The home team was up 20-15, but the Lady Cougars managed to tie the set at 21 before EWC scored four the final five points to extend the match to a fourth set.
In the fourth set, sophomore outside hitter Tina Betham scored a kill to give the Lady Lancers a 4-3 lead, but Western Nebraska battled back to take as many as a three-point lead.
Multiple attack errors swung the momentum back in EWC’s favor, and that’s when freshman outside hitter Vanja Przulj took over.
“She had her moments. When she gets a nice, hittable ball in her comfort zone, she will put it down, and in that fourth set, she was finding the open court pretty regularly.”
Back-to-back kills from Przulj gave EWC a 20-16 lead. The four-point advantage never shrunk for the remainder of the set, forcing a fifth and deciding set.
“We were able to play loose and have fun and play with a lot of energy in the third and fourth sets because we weren’t expected to win after falling down 0-2,” Geoffrey said.
The Lady Lancers grabbed an early 5-4 advantage, but the visiting Cougars countered with a 6-1 run to put away EWC in the closing moments.
“Once you get to the fifth set, it’s not quite a coin flip, but it’s pretty close. You are only playing to 15. It’s a smaller sample size and mistakes are magnified. I think the nerves and expectations that haunted us in the first set, creeped back in the fifth,” Geoffrey said. “I think there was a little bit of a ‘hey, maybe we can do this.’ Maybe some of those images of pulling off the upset crept in some minds. Those expectations can really mess with you because it’s harder to get over mistakes. It’s harder to move on to the next point. It’s harder to play within your roll because you are trying to score three points with one swing.”
In the end, Western Nebraska pulled away for a 15-9 win in the fifth, to secure the win.
Przulj led the Lady Lancers with 12 kills, while Betham added 10 and Charlene Hosly nine. J’Adore Hayes recorded a team-high 11 digs, while Lauren Feierabend tallied seven blocks – four solo and three assisted.
“As much as the lessons like this hurt, sometimes you have to learn how to win. This was a great, great match for us that will pay off later in the season when we find ourselves in a situation like this.” Geoffrey said. “Do you know how to pull it out? Can you stick to what got you to that point? Can play within yourself? Can you trust your teammates? All those little things we did tonight, at times, but just not consistently enough to pull out the win.”
The Lady Lancers return to the court on Tuesday, Sept. 3 in North Platte, Neb. against North Platte Community College. First serve is set for 6 p.m.