CASPER, Wyo. – CASPER, Wyo. – The Blinn Buccaneer volleyball team is in prime position at the NJCAA Division I Volleyball National Championship.
Yet as the top-ranked Buccaneers sit as one of the final four teams in the country heading into Friday, they aren’t willing to settle when there are still season goals to accomplish.
Blinn swept 16th-ranked Gadsden State 25-13, 25-14, 25-16, then defeated ninth-ranked North Idaho 25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 25-18 here at the Casper Event Center Friday.
“Obviously we’re happy we’re going into the Final Four and we’re right where we want to be,” Blinn (37-3) coach Erin Mellinger said. “That last game was kind of ugly, but we’re going to regroup tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”
The Bucs face Hillsborough (Fla.) Community College at 7:30 p.m. Central time.
Following the North Idaho game that sent the Bucs into Friday’s play, Alyssa LaMont walked off the court and yelled, “FINAL FOUR!”
It was quite the journey through North Idaho to get there.
Where Blinn played well in nearly every aspect against Gadsden, the team struggled against the Lady Cardinals.
Against Gadsden, the Bucs hit .357, including four players who hit above .500. Against North Idaho, that percentage dipped to .188. But Blinn’s defense held the Lady Cardinals’ offense to a .147 hitting percentage and forced them into 29 errors.
When it mattered most, whether when North Idaho pulled ahead or threaten a Blinn lead, the Bucs pulled together enough offense to hold the Lady Cardinals off.
“Our goal is to get to the national finals, and we’re using that as momentum throughout the tournament,” freshman Rebecca Reeve said, who finished with eight kills and nine digs against North Idaho.
Despite her struggles against the Lady Cardinals, sophomore Kariana Castanon-Hill blasted one of her six kills to end the match.
Sophomore Crystal Young rewrote the Blinn volleyball record books Friday by setting a new record for the most assists in a season, breaking Megan Loftis’ 2006 record of 1,410. Young entered the tournament with 1,397 this season, and her 70 through Thursday’s two games gives her 1,467.
“I couldn’t have this record without my hitters,” Young said. “It’s a team effort, no matter what.”
But even as a new record holder, Young is focused on the bigger goal.
“Last year, we didn’t make it to nationals, and going into this year, us six sophomores said we’re not going to settle for anything less,” Young said.
The Bucs are in prime position to complete their title run.
For more information on Blinn volleyball, visit www.buccaneersports.com.
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