CASPER, WYO. – Wallace State's volleyball team dropped its National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I championship opener Thursday, losing 18-25, 11-25, 18-25 to 5th-seeded Hillsborough Community College at the Casper Events Center.
Wallace State, the tournament's 12th seed, struggled to sustain any momentum against the Florida-based Hawks, leading only briefly in the third set.
"We played with a lack of ball control and defense, and that's a bad recipe at a national tournament. We seemed a little nervous and never gained any confidence," said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel. "We'll need more energy and effort in order to win on Friday."
Wallace State, which is making its seventh consecutive national tournament appearance and a state-best 15th overall, was led by freshman Kelsea Bivins who finished with a team-high 11 kills and three digs.
CeCe Hall had seven kills for the Lions (39-7), Cierra Davis registered nine digs and seven kills, Alexandra Gamble had 32 assists and August Newberry added seven digs.
Hillsborough grabbed a 10-7 lead in the first set and pushed it out to 16-9. Wallace State trimmed its deficit to 20-15 before the Hawks closed the set on a 5-0 run.
The Hawks (32-5) marched out to a 16-6 advantage in the second set and never allowed the Lions to get within 10 points the rest of the way.
Wallace State had a pair of early leads in the third set at 2-1 and 3-2. Hillsborough tied things up at 3-all and never trailed again.
Hillsborough had five players collect six or more kills, including Abigail O'Ferrell with nine kills. Briana Stowell finished with 30 assists and eight kills and Cherlie Adorno DeJesus added 12 digs.
Wallace State continues action in the double-elimination tournament on Friday, playing Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College at 1 p.m. CST. Wallace State defeated the Blue Dragons earlier this season in five sets. All matches can be seen live at njcaatv.com.
Pictured: Wallace State freshman Kelsea Bivins attempts a kill as teammates Cidavia Hall and August Newberry, far right, look on in the Lions' match Thursday at the NJCAA Division I championships in Casper, Wyo.