By Russell Moore
FOR THE TIMES
WEST PLAINS, MO. —
Another solid Wallace State volleyball season has concluded at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I national tournament. The four-time defending state champions lost to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College 20-25, 19-25, 20-25 at the West Plains Civic Center in West Plains, Mo., on Friday, eliminating the Lions from the double-elimination event.
Wallace State, making its state-best 13th national tournament appearance, struggled to maintain any momentum against the 10th-seeded Dragons, digging early deficits in all three games.
“We’ve talked about how fast teams can jump on you and apply pressure once you advance to this stage, and it happened,” said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel. “Hutchinson and Western Nebraska were both very well coached, and we knew they were both going to play well.”
Wallace State, seeded No. 15, lost to second-seeded Western Nebraska in its opening match on Thursday. Western Nebraska plays for the national championship on Saturday night.
Wallace State’s five sophomores---Jessica Coombs, EA Shaver, Erica Baker, Bekah Myers and Maegan Belcher---leave the program with impressive accolades, as their predecessors did under Daniel.
The sophomore class won 75 matches in two seasons, winning two state tournament championships and a pair of regular-season conference titles. Baker, a Hazel Green grad, was named the region player of the year for the second year in a row, and Coombs easily surpassed the school record for digs in a single season and career.
“The sophomores have been a great group of leader for us for two years. They were great defensively at putting pressure on teams because of their ball control,” Daniel said. “I would love to have the sophomores for two more years, but that’s the nature of junior college athletics. You get comfortable with them and then they’re out the door.”
Wallace State finished the season 33-8.