Lady Rustlers lose five-set home thrillerSep 28, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor
Sometimes before you win, you must learn to lose.
On Wednesday night at Rustler Gym, the Central Wyoming College volleyball squad was in the driver's seat, up two sets to one against visiting Western Wyoming Community College and on the verge of improving their conference record to 2-1 with its second consecutive match victory.
The Lady Mustangs won the fourth set, 25-22, to deadlock the contest, then went on to win the fifth-set tiebreaker, 17-15, to close out the match, pulling victory back from the brink of defeat and dooming the home side to a 3-2 (22-25, 25-21,15-25, 25-22, 17-15) win.
In the aftermath, Central head coach Darshaya Gallard was crestfallen after her squad had left it all on the court, but alas, to no avail.
"We never want to feel that way again," said Gallard. "We've improved a great deal, but still not enough to win."
In the opening set, the Lady Mustangs came out with grit and determination, quickly building an advantage which lasted midway through the stanza.
But, Serbian smasher Tamara Lukic slammed home a trio of kills, along with a double-team block at the net by Kayla Coles and Rylee Burmester, which gave Gallard's side a lead at 12-11 and the teams traded points until Central led 20-17.
But, Western showed resolve in winning the next three points until the score was again knotted at 21-21, before finally pulling away and winning, 25-22.
Coles came alive at the outset of the second set, with three quick kills in helping her club build a 5-1 lead, but once again, the Mustangs fired right back and eventually took the lead.
Central's Naz Sahin delivered an ace to bring the Rustlers within a point, at 13-12, before Coles bombed another kill for a 14-13 lead, only to be matched by Western's Taylor Winston, who put the visitors back in the lead.
But, Coles would not let her teammates be denied the set victory, adding a block and an ace to help close it out, along with a Taylor Hodges kill for a 25-21 win to level the match.
Central would go on to dominate the third set, winning, 25-15, as Sahin had another block for a point, along with a deft tip over the net for another, with Burmester collecting three kills.
However, the fourth set was when things began to unravel a bit for the Orange-and-Black.
Western built as much as an eight-point lead at 13-8, before the Lady Rustlers gamely fought back, only to ultimately lose, 25-22, which squared the match at a pair of sets apiece.
According to Gallard, her team let up a bit after winning the third set.
"We got a little complacent," said Gallard. "We have to learn how to finish out games."
So, off to the "race to 15," as the fifth-set tiebreaker is known.
It was certainly a back-and-forth affair, with the score see-sawing between the two sides like a yo-yo being yanked by a petulant youth.
Lukic still had plenty left in her tank, adding another pair of kills to go with continued strong net play by 6-foot-2 middle blocker Jensen Paris, who provided a powerful presence the entire match.
But, it was Coles who singlehanded put the Lady Rustlers on the brink of victory, with three more thunderous kills sandwiched around a block, which gave Central a 14-13 lead.
The set would be even twice more, at 14-14 and 15-15, before the Mustangs finally prevailed 17-15 and claimed the match in the process.
Burmester led the Lady Rustlers with 16 kills, as Lukic and Coles each added 15, while Sahin had an incredible 43 assists.
Lukic also led Central with 14 digs, while Alyssa Barkhurst (13), Burmester (13), Sahin (13) and Brooklenn Thompson (12) all hit double-digits digs on the day.
It was an all-around impressive effort by the Lady Rustlers, but Gallard gave credit where it was due after the smoke had cleared on this shootout.
"Western just never gave up," she said. "But, I'm proud of our girls getting it to five sets."
As far as what needs to be done to ensure success next time around in a similar situation, the Central bench boss was philosophical.
"We play well when we're relaxed and we believe in ourselves," said Gallard. "Now, we have to grow as a team and focus on the matches at hand."
Central (4-10, 1-2 Region IX North) will next face consecutive conference road matches at Eastern Wyoming College and Laramie County Community College on Friday and Saturday, respectively.