NORFOLK, Neb. — Southwestern’s volleyball squad played much better in its region XI postseason opener at Northeast Community College Tuesday than it had in a 3-0 loss on Sept. 20 in Norfolk.
Wednesday still brought a loss, this time in four sets, as the Spartans fell in three consecutive sets after an opening 25-23 win.
The losses came 25-19, 25-21, 25-20, but coach Aleesha Cleaver was glad to see her season finished on a stronger note than might have been expected of the Spartans several months ago.
The four-set loss left SWCC just below the .500 mark at 20-21 after winning just six matches in 2016.
“They’re (Northeast) a very experienced team. They’re very talented. I think their experience is what put them over the edge,” Cleaver said.
Sydney Maynes finished off her career with a strong night at the net, recording numerous kills and blocks, a skill set that has earned her two ICCAC player of the week awards in the last several weeks.
“Sydney was amazing last night (Wednesday),” Cleaver said. “October was really good to Sydney. She worked really hard and it showed. She controlled games.”
Maynes had 142 kills heading into SWCC’s final match, third on the Spartans to Jada Perkins (332) and Kelcie Shields (248). Maynes’ 83 blocks were tops on the Spartans. Perkins’ 413 digs helped show her versatility. That number left her second on the Spartans.
SWCC held leads in each of the next two sets, but lost both, including a 20-15 advantage after an 8-0 run in set three. Attack errors doomed the Spartans as they fell behind 2-1.
“We played extremely well. The one set that was a little frustrating was set three,” Cleaver said.
Ashley Kopplin, Cleaver noted, had north of 30 digs in her final match, bringing to a close a two-year SWCC career that has seen her be as consistent as any player in the program over that time.
Kopplin, whose 615 digs entering the night were 23rd in NJCAA Division II as of Thursday evening. was consistent in getting her passes up to fellow sophomore Taylor Damewood, and freshman Ashley Porter, who will take the main setting role next year once more.
Damewood had 252 assists in 26 matches of action
heading into the final match, while Porter had 650 playing in every match.
Southwestern’s 2,035 digs were 32nd in the country out of 124 Division II teams with listed stats.
The strong play from Kopplin and the Corning stars, Maynes and Damewood, made Cleaver proud on the last night of the season.
“Definitely something you want to see if your sophomore play well in their last game,” Cleaver said. “I couldn’t ask anything more of them.”
The Spartans capitalized on a season with multiple experienced starters, but even more young talent.
Injuries limited the team’s growth early on, and reduced time for repetition between teammates, but the Spartans responded with 11 wins in their last 15 matches.
With Southwestern on strong footing, it will look toward 2018 as the year it makes its potential jump toward the top of Region XI.
“For them to show out like they did, show out and get those wins and overcome that adversity, it was great to see,” Cleaver said.
“It’s exciting. It was definitely a fun season and a fun group,” Cleaver later added. “I’m extremely fortunate to have coached these sophomores.”
Full stats were unavailable from the match as of press time.