Casper College’s impressive volleyball season came to an unexpected early finish Thursday in the Region IX Tournament at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym. The T-Birds let a late lead slip away and suffered a 3-2 (13-25, 26-24, 25-23, 22-25, 17-15) loss to Laramie County Community College in a loser-out match.
The T-Birds held a 14-12 lead in the final set on a kill from sophomore Hailey Anderson, but the Golden Eagles rallied behind the play of freshman Rigan McInerney and sophomores Kalme Moncavo and Kyla Childers. After Anderson tied the set at 15-all with a kill down the line, Childers pounded a kill through the center of the Casper College defense and then teamed with sophomore Hannah Blunt to block the T-Birds at the net.
The T-Birds earned the right to host the Region IX Tournament by winning the North sub-region, but lost 3-1 to Otero Junior College in the first round Wednesday night. Casper College still had a chance to win the Northwest Plains B championship and earn a trip to the National Junior College Athletics Association Division I Championship later this month by advancing through the loser’s bracket, but came up short.
The T-Birds got off to a solid start Thursday, scoring 10 of the final 12 points in the set. Anderson had two late kills and the Golden Eagles’ final spike attempt was out of bounds to give the T-Birds the win.
Casper College built a 20-16 lead in the second set on a kill from sophomore Jana Gilic before LCCC went on a 4-0 run. Two kills from Gilic and another from sophomore Olivia Muir gave the T-Birds a 23-21 lead before the Golden Eagles rallied, winning the set when a Casper College shot sailed out of bounds.
The third set was another tight affair, but McInerney gave LCCC a 24-22 lead on a kill and the Golden Eagles taking a 2-1 lead when a T-Birds’ serve went out of bounds.
Facing elimination and trailing 21-19 in the fourth set, Muir took control to extend Casper College’s season. She had three kills and freshman Jada Suguturaga provided the set-winning kill to force the fifth set.
The T-Birds quickly built a 6-1 lead behind three kills from Muir, another from sophomore Hannah Thompson and a block by Suguturaga and freshman Kamille Nate. Another kill from Muir pushed the advantage to 8-4, but the Golden Eagles scored the next six points, punctuated by back-to-back kills from Moncavo.
Trailing 12-9, the T-Birds went on a 5-0 run to seemingly take control before LCCC railed for the victory.
The Golden Eagles and Central Wyoming College, a 3-1 winner over Eastern Wyoming College, advanced to the Northwest Plains B semifinals. Later Thursday, McCook Community College faced Western Nebraska Community College and Northeastern Junior College played Otero JC in the semifinals.
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN