Lady T-Birds survive unforced errors to beat Lady Chaparrals
EDUARDO MIRANDA NEWS-SUN
September 27, 2019
EDUARDO MIRANDA/NEWS-SUN New Mexico Junior College's Ace Sawadogo blocks a hit from Vernon College's Kyanna Hurd in the first set at Caster Arena. The Lady T-Birds won the game in four sets.
The New Mexico Junior College volleyball team returned to the court Thursday night and faced Vernon College at the end of a back-to-back schedule. The Lady T-Birds were coming off the program's first home and conference wins, and were in the midst of a three game winning streak.
New Mexico Junior College (12-13) overcame the tough and scrappy Lady Chaps and unforced errors to win in four sets 25-18, 19-25, 25-22, 25-20. The win pushes the streak to four and brings the Lady T-Birds to a game under .500 in its inaugural season.
"A wins a win," Lady T-Bird head coach Alexandra Lehocky said. "We could have performed a little better as a team and individually, but I'm happy we are walking away with a win. I'm happy we figured out a way to win in that situation."
The situation the coach referred to was the home team showing what it is capable of in the first set, dropping the second due to errors, and finding a way to fight back into the game for a win in the last two sets.
The first set the Lady T-Birds played like a well-polished machine jumping out to and 14-3 lead. They scored from the front row with Andrea Spasojevic, Kristine Teivane, and Ace Sawadogo scoring on kills. Valeria Trevino had an impressive run serving that began with an ace. Her serves forced the Lady Chaps into two unforced errors and made the setters place the ball farther away form the net for the hitters. Sawadogo had one of her two blocks in the run both resulted in points for the home team. The Lady T-Birds had the set but hit a bump leading 21-12. They allowed Vernon College to have a chance at stealing the set with five unforced errors at 22-18. NMJC scored the final three points to take the game.
Going into the second set the Lady T-Birds inability to finish off the Lady Chaps early, gave their opponent the confidence to know they can find a way to win sets and the game. Vernon College showed that when the set was tied at 10-10. NMJC gifted the Lady Chaps their first lead in the game off an unforced error. That swung all the momentum to the visitors who began to make plays at the net getting blocks and finishing kills, pushing the lead to 18-13. The Lady T-Birds made a push to get back multiply times, but each run was stopped not by Vernon College but by unforced errors, bad serves and hits, letting Vernon College win the second set 25-19. The home team finished the set with 15 unforced errors, but the introduction of Makenzie Gerlach helped the team make runs.
After the intermission the Lady T-Birds continued to struggle with unforced errors and gave the Lady Chaps an early 4-1 lead. That lead ballooned to 16-11 and the home team's body language looked defeated. Lehocky made a change bringing in Cheyenne Martinez off the bench to add a spark, and with Gerlach helped pick up NMJC. The Lady T-Birds began to force Vernon College into making unforced errors and Spasojevic, Kendra McRuffin, Trevino, and Gerlach began to get kills at the net. A 16-11 deficit turned into a 24-22 lead, and an ace
from Trevino gave the home side the win. In that run the Lady T-Birds committed only one unforced error.
In the final set NMJC again trailed Vernon College 9-4, and began to make a run to tie the set at 13-13 off a kill by Gerlach. The run started with two straight kills and a big block from Spasojevic. Trevino, Gerlach, and McRuffin had kills to bring life back into the team and the crowd. From that point the set went back and forth with each team trading points, until the Lady T-Birds took an 18-17 lead. The home team did not allow the visitors to equalizer the game and kills from Martinez, Spasojevic, and Trevino pushed the lead to 24-20. A spike from Spasojevic down the middle secured the game point for the home team.
"This team always does that. Every game we have played we somehow find a way to keep coming back and being successful," Lehocky said on the team making comebacks. "I appreciate that from this team, but instead I'm worried if we can claw back."
She said that one of the issues with comebacks is the body language of the team. During the game against Vernon College the players had their heads down, slouched back, or took their time to get off the ground when a point did not go their way or made a bad hit. It's something the team has worked on and something Lehocky was pleased to see her players pull themselves out of that situation.
"I am so proud of them and happy for them," the Lady T-Bird coach said on the performance of Gerlach and Martinez. "Mackenzie Gerlach is one of the most coachable players I have ever had, and I trust her when she comes off the bench. Cheyenne is also very coachable and works hard out there. I am confident in making those changes."
The Lady T-Birds return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday hosting Clarendon College in Western Junior College Athletic Conference action. Lehocky hopes to build on the momentum from winning back-to-back games.
"Its great hopefully we can keep this confidence. Hopefully they can understand we are a very good team and just continue this little roll we are on," Lehocky said.