CASPER, WYO. – Wallace State's volleyball team lost to top-seeded Iowa Western CC in their opening-round match at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I national tournament at the Casper Events Center on Thursday.
The Lions, who played much better than their No. 16 seed indicated, fell 25-18, 25-17, 25-22, providing a tough test for Iowa Western during each game.
"We played really good to 15 points every set and were right there with them. After that we just seemed to get timid and made some uncharacteristic plays on back row defense. That really hurt. Offensively we held our own, but our defense let us down," said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel, the 2014 Alabama Community College Conference Coach (ACCC) of the Year. "We are better than a 16 seed, but to beat a team like Iowa Western you've got to be the strongest team in the end. Iowa Western is a good team. Their setter and outside hitter are very good."
Wallace State, which made its sixth straight appearance at the NJCAA Division I tournament and a state-best 15th overall, was led by sophomore Syretha Pride who finished with 12 kills.
Savanna Tidwell, a freshman from Winston County High, had 10 kills and seven digs for the Lions, Alexandra Gamble had 19 assists, Sarah Ellen Battles collected a team-high 10 digs, Kaci Kirk contributed eight assists and BreAnna Thompson had five kills.
Wallace State (35-9) played loose early on, marching out to leads of 7-3 and 9-4 in the opening game. Iowa Western battled back and tied things at 11. There were two more ties in the first game before the Reivers grabbed a 16-15 advantage. Iowa Western then closed things out on a 9-3 run.
Iowa Western (43-1) led throughout the second and third games, but couldn't put Wallace State away until the closing points each time.
In the second game, Wallace State made it as close as 20-16 and never trailed by more than four points in the final game.
Aly Dawson led Iowa Western with 18 kills and 12 digs, while Kassidy Sullivan and Gabriella Strazzerri, a Brazilian, had 10 kills apiece. Nicole Sanchez, a setter from Puerto Rico, had 44 assists.
Wallace State continues play in the double-elimination tournament on Friday, playing the State College of Florida at 1 p.m. CST. All matches can be seen live at njcaatv.com.