IOLA – In a back-and-forth volleyball game at Allen Community College on Thursday night, No. 12 Neosho County Community College overcame one of the more challenging obstacles of the season.
The Panthers were able to stave off a Red Devil team that pushed the game to five sets – the third time NCCC has played that many sets this season. In the end, the nationally-ranked NJCAA Division II team beat ACC 3-2 (25-21, 25-22 Allen, 25-17, 25-16 Allen, 16-14), improving to 5-1 on the season.
Freshman middle blocker McKinley Pruitt led the team with 16 kills, one assist, and four digs; freshman middle blocker and outside hitter Hannah Brisco had 14 kills, one ace, and three digs; freshman outside hitter Jolene Tidwell had nine kills, five digs, two assists, and three aces; freshman outside hitter Riley Kallevig notched eight kills, 11 digs, and one assist; freshman middle blocker Samantha Johnson racked up eight kills and two digs; and freshman right-side hitter Rylee Moseman tallied 45 assists, 15 digs, and one kill.
With the game locked up at 2-2, it came down to the final fifth set. First-year head coach Marisa Compton said it was a challenge to take down the Red Devils in that final set.
“Allen plays with a lot of energy. We saw some different things from them,” Compton said. “This is the first time we played in front of fans this season. And they were scrappy and kept the ball off the ground. I’m proud of our girls because we fought through adversity and found a way to finish it.”
There was tons of adversity at ACC in that final set. For the first time this season, there was a raucous crowd, some with no masks, that heckled NCCC’s players every chance they got.
Allen was feeding off the crowd, as well as their own energy from scoring points.
But NCCC matched that energy and play. Pruitt was aggressive in scoring some kills, while also blocking well at the net. The same goes for Brisco, who came through in some clutch moments with some kills, as well as blocking at the net when Allen did their best for a momentum swing.
“I think we all came together as a team and worked really hard for that and kept ourselves composed,” Pruitt said. “I just tell my setter, ‘I want the ball, give me the ball, give me the ball,’ because I want to be able to get points for the team. But it starts with the pass and set, so as a team, we pulled it together. I think just staying composed, and if I get blocked, or if I don’t have a hit, just wanting the ball again and having the confidence in wanting the ball. I really think this is going to help us because we got to see what it’s like to play with fans.”
Still, NCCC did an exceptional job in realizing the kind of opponents they were playing and not taking the team for granted. ACC has one player, sophomore setter Laia Jaca, who was a KJCCC Eastern All-Conference player two years ago. She finished the game with three kills, 14 digs, and 36 assists. This opposing talent and NCCC’s national recognition are reasons a team may put a target on the Panther’s back, and Compton knows that.
“I think anytime you get national recognition, you’re going to get the best from every team you play because they know what they’re up against, and this is the first time we played with that,” Compton said.
No. 12 NCCC (5-1, 5-0) will next play Cloud County (2-3, 2-3) today at noon in Concordia.