The Southwestern Community College volleyball players must have been anxious for their well-deserved break.
They wasted little time in sweeping Highland (Kan.) Community College here Thursday night, 25-20, 25-15, 25-14, to improve to 26-9 for the season. The Spartans, third in the conference at 6-2, are now idle until hosting Southeast (Neb.) Community College Tuesday.
It’s a welcome weekend off after the Spartans have played 11 matches in 13 days.
“We need the break,” SWCC coach Melissa Blessington said. “We’ve played a lot of matches the past two weeks.”
The team has two weekends off before gearing up for what Blessington hopes is a run for one of the two national tournament berths in the region.
By being in the top four, Southwestern will host a first-round regional match Nov. 5. The winner advances to the final four in Fort Dodge Nov. 9. The Spartans would probably have to beat either fourth-ranked Kirkwood or No. 19 DMACC to advance to nationals, but the season to date has shown Southwestern to be a legitimate contender.
“We’ve got a good shot at one of the two spots,” Blessington said.
The last Southwestern team to go to nationals was in 1999, two years before the team Blessington played on fell two points short in game five against Kirkwood.
“That was when just one team went from our region,” Blessington said. “And now, it could be us playing Kirkwood again since DMACC beat them and is the No. 1 seed now. Kirkwood is two and we’re three.”
The way the tournament is structured, the No. 1 seed (DMACC) would likely face the No. 4 seed (Southeastern) in the final round of the opposite bracket, if favorites prevail in the early rounds. That leaves Kirkwood and Southwestern as the favorites to battle for the top spot in the other bracket.
Meanwhile, Blessington thought her team did a decent job of taking care of business Thursday, one night after spending a total of nine hours on the road for a conference win at Clinton.
“Highland is always tough for us to play,” Blessington said. “They have a scrappy back row and their setter is very smart. Our girls worked hard for every point and that is something that we have focused on for the past few weeks.”
An area the team can still improve on, she noted, is court coverage when the hitters are blocked. The team can’t afford to let those balls hit the floor in regional competition, she said.
But in general the defense was strong Thursday night. Molly Schimp had 18 digs, coming off her selection as ICCAC Defensive Player of the Week.
“Molly is new to the defensive position, having been a setter last year, so we are very proud of her and what she has accomplished,” Blessington said. Schimp, she said, is getting Division I and Division II recruiting attention as both a defensive specialist and setter.
Allyson Kocour and Alex Duffy each smacked nine kills in Thursday’s quick match. Janaya Fox served 17-18 with three aces while contributing seven kills.
Setter Cassidy Yong had 20 assists and some clever plays down the stretch, such as a quick one-handed dump to an open spot as the Spartans were building a 10-point lead in set three. Mel Mangrum ended a long rally near the end of the match with a thunderous spike.
“Mel had a heart condition over the summer that slowed her down, and then an Achilles problem early, so she’s just now coming on for us,” Blessington said.
SWCC 3, Highland (Kan.) 0
Attacks (kills) — Allyson Kocour 9, Alex Duffy 9, Janaya Fox 7.
Setting (assists) — Cassidy Yong 20.
Digs — Molly Schimp 18, C. Yong 16
Blocks — Duffy 4, Shelby Sullivan 3.
Serving (aces) — Janaya Fox 17-18 (3).