The Eastern Wyoming College volleyball team will return to the Region IX Tournament Wednesday in Sterling, Colorado.
Following a one-year absence, the Lancers clinched the North's No. 2 seed with a pair of weekend wins to close the regular season. EWC will play at 3 p.m. on Wednesday against the winner of the 8 a.m. play-in match between Otero Junior College and Northwest College.
The Lancers beat Northwest College in four sets (25-12, 17-25, 25-15, 25-16) on Friday and swept Sheridan College on Saturday 25-22, 25-15, 25-23), eliminating the latter from postseason contention.
"We knew we still had to win one to clinch the first-round bye, but really our biggest goal this weekend was to get some good vibes going into next week," EWC head coach Dante Geoffrey said. "Our offense was as potent as it had been in quite a while and our defense was pretty relentless."
Eastern totaled 100 kills in seven sets while maintaining a highly efficient .274 hitting percentage.
"It starts with our setters, who did a great job running our offense this weekend," Geoffrey said.
Sophomore setter Lexi Trowbridge finished the regular season with her sixth double-double of the season by racking up a team-high 23 assists plus 12 digs. Trowbridge had 16 assists and six digs at Northwest.
Freshman Devyn Volz earned her fourth double-double on Friday thanks to 22 assists and 10 digs against the Trappers. She also tied a season-high with five service aces. On Saturday, Volz finished with 13 assists, three digs and one ace.
"Our offense was diverse and unpredictable," Geoffrey said. "It was fun because even us on the bench didn't know what was coming next, but we knew that wherever the set went was going to lead to a strong attack."
Freshman outside hitter Vanja Przulj led the Lancers with 30 kills – 13 against Friday against the Trappers and 17 the next afternoon against the Generals. She hit .441 at Sheridan, her best mark since posting a .452 hitting percentage in a five-set home loss against Northeastern Junior College.
"She had such a strong finish to the season," Geoffrey said. "She led us in kills in three of our last four matches and finished the season with hitting numbers you'd put up against anyone's in this region."
Przulj is third in the North with 3.52 kills per set and sixth with a .251 hitting percentage.
Sophomore outside hitter Charlene Hosly totaled 25 kills and a .266 hitting percentage, while averaging more than 3.5 digs per set.
Hosly finished the regular season as one of only two players in Region IX-North to average more than three kills per set and three digs per set, and the only one to do so with a hitting percentage more than .200.
"She's truly a do-it-all player, a key cog that helps us win in every facet of the game," Geoffrey said. "On top of her hitting and defense, she's also a stellar passer in serve-receive and is consistently one of our most effective servers."
Eastern's outsides weren't the only forces with which to be reckoned during the final road trip.
Freshman right side Alyssa Parmelee scored nine kills versus the Trappers, and 10 against the Generals, her most this season in a three-set match. Parmelee made the most of her swings by minimizing errors, hitting .250 on Friday and .391 on Saturday. She's hit .200 or better in four straight matches, her longest such streak of the season.
"She's another freshman who's stepped up and earned a bigger role as the season has progressed," Geoffrey said. "As we head into the tournament I think she's playing her best volleyball."
Freshman middle Lauren Feierabend tallied six kills in both weekend matches, including an errorless effort on Saturday that gave her a .500 hitting percentage. She also totaled eight block assists and seven digs in the wins.
Freshman right side Emma Larsen reached a season-high with five kills against the Trappers.
"Emma is someone who got thrust into a bigger role as the season progressed and she's responded really well," Geoffrey said. "She's gained the trust of her setters and is providing a disciplined block on the defensive side. She's one of our most improved players, it's been awesome to see her grow."
Freshman J'Adore Hayes finished strong with 19 digs at Sheridan, her second best mark in a three-set match. Hayes also continued to facilitate Eastern's offense in out-of-system situations, earning nine assists over the course of the weekend.
Hayes finished the season as Eastern's digs leader, averaging 4.23 digs per set, and is the only libero in the North to average more than an assist per set.
"Our defense was very proactive this weekend, and a lot of that starts with J'Adore. When she is aggressively attacking her defensive responsibilities like taking setter attacks and taking 50-50 balls, that frees up her teammates in the back row to better perform their responsibilities," Geoffrey said. "That's the life of the libero, if she can get to it, it'll be her ball and we're happy anytime she gets the first touch."
EWC will host a Region IX Tournament send-off for the team from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of the Verl Petsch Jr. Activities Center. Fans can take photos with the team and get a free autographed poster. The Lancers will leave for Sterling, Colorado, Wednesday morning.
Tournament info, including live streaming information, can be found at http://www.gonjc.com.
One-day passes cost $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors. Tournament passes cost $40 for adults, $32 for students and seniors. Children 6 and under get in free.