The Eastern Wyoming College volleyball team started Region IX-North play with a pair of road wins last week.
The Lancers (16-6, 2-0) earned a sweep at Laramie County (25-15, 25-18, 25-19) on Tuesday and then did the same at Casper (25-18, 25-15, 25-15) on Friday. The early standings have EWC tied atop Region IX-North along with the 2-0 Western Wyoming Mustangs.
Tuesday's region opener snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Golden Eagles, dating back to September 27, 2011; while Friday's win in Casper was EWC's first in five tries against the Thunderbirds.
"Starting region on the road, it was really important to bank these two wins. That was the mindset going into these matches. Let's bank these wins and keep our destiny in our own hands," EWC head coach Dante Geoffrey said. "Now we have four straight region games at home, so we have the opportunity to position ourselves as a contender at the half-way point of the region schedule."
Freshman outside hitter Vanja Pržulj shined in the opening victory against LCCC with 16 kills and a .345 hitting percentage in just three sets. Sophomore outside hitter Charlène Hosly added 10 kills (.296 hitting percentage) and 10 digs for her fourth straight double-double.
The Lancers hit .255 as a team, thanks to strong passing and consistent setting from freshman Devyn Volz and sophomore Lexi Trowbridge. Volz led EWC with 18 assists and was second with nine digs, plus a service ace. Trowbridge set up 14 kills, had four digs and two service aces.
"Their gym in Cheyenne is never an easy place to play, every win in that building is earned and I'm really proud of how we stepped up and took control right away. We did a great job continuing the consistent play we found the last day of the Wyo-Braska," Geoffrey said, referring to EWC's home tournament in which the Lancers went 4-1 and beat No. 12 Utah State University Eastern.
"I think we have a quiet confidence right now that we can nurture and build on."
Friday's match against Casper came in another building that's seen the visiting team leave dejected more times than not.
The Lancers picked up their fourth straight victory (and sixth in their last seven contests) with a similarly dominating performance against the T-Birds.
Sophomore opposite Tina Betham racked up nine kills with no errors (.643 hitting percentage) to help a balanced Lancer attack earn 44 kills in the sweep.
"This was a total team win," Geoffrey said. "Every healthy body contributed in the match, and we avoided all the potential pitfalls of a game like this. We were tired, playing our seventh match in eight days, and looking forward to a rare Saturday off. That could have led to a drop in focus or urgency but this team was locked in."
Hosly led all players with 15 kills (.419 hitting percentage), followed by Betham, seven from Pržulj, five from Feierabend, three from freshman opposite Emma Larsen and two from sophomore middle Allie White.
Hayes had a team-high 14 digs, two service aces and five assists.
Volz again paced the setters with 13 assists and two aces in three sets. Trowbridge added 12 assists, two aces and three digs in just two sets.
Nine aces in three sets pushed the Lancers' season average to just over two aces/set, which – as of September 29, 2019 – is good for 12th in the nation.
"That's been one of our hallmarks, and was one of our goals heading into this match," Geoffrey said. "We were sitting at 1.99 aces per set going into the game, so we said let's make sure we're serving aggressive and see if we can't boost that average up a bit. It was really cool to see us focus and achieve a goal like that."
Six Lancers served aces against the Casper – Hayes 2, Trowbridge 2, Volz 2, Peyton Greeson 1, Nadia Montalbán 1.
Eastern Wyoming returns to Torrington for five straight home games, including four Region IX-North -matches. The Lancers host Central Wyoming (7-11, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, and Western Wyoming (13-6, 2-0) at 3 p.m. on Saturday.