Eastern Wyoming College volleyball dropped its home opener, but can hold its head up high after taking perennial national title contender Western Nebraska to five sets on Tuesday night.
A slow start put the Lancers (4-1) in an 0-2 hole (15-25, 18-25) but the home team rallied in front of a lively crowd to take the next two sets 25-23, 25-21.
"If there's one thing you can take away from this match, it's that this group will fight," first-year EWC head coach Dante Geoffrey said. "We were down, and some may have counted us out, but we came together and found our groove."
The deciding set opened with the longtime Region IX rivals trading points to a 5-5 tie, before a five-point run put the Cougars firmly in control on their way to a 15-9 victory.
The Lancer offense was led by sophomore setter Lexi Trowbridge who had 22 assists and 10 digs for her first double-double of the season. Freshman outside Vanja Przulj led the Lancers with 12 kills and also had 10 digs to go with two block assists. Sophomore opposite Tina Betham was second in kills with 10, while adding three block assists and a pair of digs.
The freshmen middle duo of Lauren Feierabend and Janaya Sims kept the Cougar defense on their toes with efficient nights on the attack. Feierabend had eight kills and a .429 hitting percentage, plus a team-best four solo blocks and three block assists. Sims had five kills and no errors on seven attempts and added four block assists.
"Our offense remained balanced, which will be a strength for us this season," Geoffrey said. "Some teams get all their kills from two or three players but we get consistent production five or six, which makes life hard on the opposing defenses.
"That's a credit to our hitters, of course, but also our setters for knowing who to use and when. They trusted everyone in that front row to be able to put a ball down."
Freshmen setters Devyn Volz (11 assists, three digs) and Vittoria Cacciavillani (seven assists, two digs) each contributed to the offensive resurgence, which coincided with Nadia Montalban El-Hiriche's steady passing.
"Nadia did a great job entering the game in the third set and helping us calm things down in the back row," Geoffrey said. "I think maybe the first home game caused some overthinking early on and Nadia was able to come in and get our offense back in system. That's impressive mental toughness for a player to come in and play like that after not touching a ball for 45 minutes."
The Lancers are off this weekend and next play on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at North Platte. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. (Central) start.
"Despite the loss, bouncing back the way we did and taking Western to five is a positive for us," Geoffrey said. "We know who we are and what we can do when we play our game, and as the season progresses we'll be able to do that more consistently. North Platte will be another good test for us to be ourselves no matter the circumstances."