FORT SCOTT – Neosho County Community College road warriors increased their decibel level every time one of their volleyball players chalked up a point in favor of the Lady Panthers. NCCC opened its season Friday in Fort Scott against Allen Community College.
As 13th-year head coach Asya Herron repeatedly blared out instructions to her team, the spirited bunch would communicate a little more, play as a team a bit better, set up each other for potential kill shots more often, and were extra defensive at the net.
Dozens of Lady Panther faithful exploded in cheers when their team came away with the 3-1 win.
What ultimately finished the job was the Lady Panthers picking up momentum after a wake-up call in the first set of their first game of the year versus ACC, which was hosted at Fort Scott High School gymnasium. NCCC lost the first set 25-20, but would go on to win the next three sets by scores of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-19, and more importantly, move to 1-0 on the 2019 season — the campaign after NCCC advanced to the playoffs for at least the 12th straight year under Herron.
Sophomore Jenna DeVore tallied 40 assists and three kills; sophomore Savana Godfrey had three aces, two blocks and 11 kills; freshman Hanna Mowdy finished with one block and nine kills; and freshman McKenzi Shurley tacked on five aces, two blocks and seven kills.
The Lady Panthers rallied with a 6-0 run to go up 22-18 towards the end of the second set, before both teams culminated the second with three more points.
Herron said not being in live competitive action in a while with the regulars is one of the reasons why the turning point of the contest didn’t happen until the end of the second set.
“We just haven’t been on the court together very much,” Herron said. “We are limited; we have a couple of injuries. We’re down to one setter and we weren’t able to practice against anybody very much. So really it’s the first time we have been on the court together in organized fashion. It’s really getting used to playing on the court.”
Shurley was instrumental in spearheading working well collectively as a team by scoring points during the crucial run at the end of the second set. After Allen County dictated the tempo in the first set, Shurley assisted in switching the momentum in favor of the Lady Panthers in that second set, which allowed players to take care of the ball and pass at a higher level.
And while the Lady Panthers have several sophomores playing and leading the team, the only returning starter is DeVore, who was a 2018 Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Honorable Mention player as a freshman. Most of the team, including DeVore, is playing in a new role.
Godfrey joined in on the momentum swing as her passing was more crisp and efficient from the second set on. And this allowed her to garner points in transition.
Godfrey, a sophomore, said her adjustments are made within the construct of the team’s changes, which includes better communication.
“I just really wanted to help out the team and get the energy up and back and running,” Godfrey, the outside hitter, said. “I tried placing the ball where the other people weren’t, and tried using the block and hitting off the block.”
Neosho is playing in a new year which will likely portend postseason success for years to come. But other programs have to build from the ground up.
The Lady Red Devils in 2018 were in a rebuilding year, and it appears Allen Community College is still trying to figure things out in 2019.
Fifth-year Lady Red Devil coach Whitney Shaw said her team was up and down.
“The first set was a really good set for us, even the second I feel like it was okay; we kept it close, just a few errors here and there,” Shaw said. “The third set we had a bad start. And I feel like that third set carried over to the start of the fourth.”
NCCC will play Seminole State College and Fort Scott Community College 11 am and 5 pm at Fort Scott High School today.