Upset No. 3-Seeded Team At NJCAA Nationals
The Northwest Trappers had their moments, but in the end they had to settle for a sixth-place finish at the NJCAA National Volleyball Championships last week.
The Trappers, who were seeded seventh, finished the weekend with two wins and two losses. A first round come-from-behind win over Tyler (Texas) Community College was followed by a loss at the hands of Iowa Western. They bounced back to defeat Western Nebraska and earn a shot at fifth place, but lost to Salt Lake Community College in their final match.
Following the tournament, sophomore outside hitter Lauga Gauta was named to the all tournament team.
“There were good times and bad times,” Coach Shaun Pohlman said of the Trappers’ performance in Casper. “When their backs were to the wall against Tyler, they responded the way they need to respond and performed the way they need to perform.”
After final four appearances in 2014 and 2015, the Trappers’ loss to Iowa Western ended their hope to repeat; Pohlman said his team needed a perfect game to beat the Reivers, who advanced to the finals before falling to Miami-Dade.
“We needed to make fewer mistakes,” Pohlman said. “But they responded with a win the next day. That’s the first time in the past three years we have done that.”
In their opening match, the Trappers had to rally to defeat Tyler, 3-2: 25-21, 18-25, 19-25, 25-21, 15-10. NWC blew a big lead in set one, allowing the Apaches to tie the score at 19 before pulling away for the win. Tyler took the next two sets with relative ease, but the Trappers responded in set four, coming back from an early deficit to force a tiebreaker. A block and an ace serve by Gauta started a five-point run that gave the Trappers the lead in that fifth set, and they held on for the win.
Gauta led the Trappers with a double-double — 18 kills and 11 digs — and she served three aces as well. Mikayla Sellers-Wiebe and Lauryn Dela Cruz each scored 10 kills and Alye Wagner picked up 10 digs.
In the quarterfinals, Iowa Western picked up wins in the first two sets before a spirited Trapper response — helped along by a supportive crowd that included the NWC women’s basketball team — brought a win in the third set. The Reivers regained the momentum, though, taking the fourth set for a 3-1 victory: 25-20, 25-15, 18-25, 25-18.
Gauta drove the Trappers offense with 24 kills. Olivia Jarvis hit for eight kills from her middle blocker position, Dela Cruz contributed seven, Aleksandra Saric six and Pittman five. Wagner led the defense with nine digs, while Reilly Baty and Gauta each contributed six and Dela Cruz made five.
In Western Nebraska, the Trappers faced not only the No. 3 seed, but also the team that had kept them out of finals the previous two years — and beaten them early in this season. So, when the Cougars won the first set, it looked like another defeat for the Trappers. This time, though, NWC was up to the challenge. The squad won the second set easily and then held off the Cougars in two close sets to advance with 3-1 victory: 21-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-22.
Gauta had another big match with 26 kills. Dela Cruz finished with nine, Jarvis seven, Saric six and Pittman five. Defensively, Wagner and Dela Cruz were in double figures with 12 and 11 digs, respectively. Gauta and Baty each picked up nine, while Jelena Slijepcevic picked up seven.
One more win would have meant fifth place for the Trappers, but it was not to be. Salt Lake Community came out strong, and, after taking a narrow win in the first set, won the next one easily. As they had against Iowa Western, the Trappers rallied to a win in set three, but they couldn’t keep the momentum, and set four went to the Bruins for a 3-1 loss: 25-22, 25-16, 22-25, 25-16.
Gauta and Dela Cruz each picked up a double-double: Gauta made 17 kills and 14 digs; Dela Cruz had 11 of each. Wagner led in digs with 17, Maliyah Tela picked up nine and Baty six; Jarvis, Slijepcevic and Kelsey Marchant each picked up three. Others with kills were Jarvis and Saric, who each had seven, and Pittman, Sellers-Wiebe and Sakoya Jones, who had four each.
“Every year has had something special,” Pohlman said of the Trappers’ four consecutive trips to the national tournament. “The first time it was that we were there. The second time we made the final four, which was unexpected. The third time we were back in the top four. This year we upset the No. 3 seed — a team we had lost to the last two years at nationals.
“Overall, I’m happy with how we finished,” he said.