COOS BAY — The Southwestern Oregon Community College volleyball team gave NWAC newcomer Rogue a rude introduction to the always difficult South Region in their league opener at Prosper Hall on Wednesday — for one set.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the Ospreys built leads and held off the Lakers in the next three sets and left Coos Bay with a 13-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 victory.
Southwestern Oregon Community College libero Shay Zener bumps the ball Wednesday during a match against Rogue Community College at SWOCC.
“The first set, we had it,” SWOCC coach Stephanie Willett said, adding that her players admitted getting too comfortable after the relatively easy win. “The second, third and fourth sets, they got a run on us early and we were playing from behind. It’s hard playing catch-up.”
SWOCC had difficulty getting a consistent attack against an impressive Rogue defense after the first set, when the Lakers took an early lead and got two kills each from Jade Flitton, Amanda Clark, Tayler Parks, Andria Santoyo and even setter Sydney Colledge.
An ace by Santoyo ended the set with the Lakers having all the momentum, but it didn’t last.
Rogue jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set in a bad sign of things to come. The Lakers caught up and stayed tough for a while, but the Ospreys pulled away late.
And in the third set a couple of troubling trends began developing.
First, Rogue’s front line was doing a better job getting a hand on SWOCC’s attacks and libero Trinity Atuatasi was getting to seemingly everything else.
“We struggled in the first set passing,” Rogue coach Christine Nelson said. “Then we settled in. We played good defense.”
Both Nelson and Willett singled out Atuatasi for her play. The libero had 23 digs, several of them great one-handed saves on what appeared to be sure points for the Lakers.
The other trend was that SWOCC started to struggle greatly to score points on its own serve. At one stretch bridging the third and fourth sets, the Lakers went nine straight servers without scoring a point on their serve, a streak finally ended on an ace by Natalie Sale. Earlier in the third set, the Lakers went six servers — an entire rotation — without a point on their serve.
Willett said part of the problem was the Ospreys.
“They will probably have one of the best defenses in our region,” she said.
The other problem was unforced errors — illegal sets, serving errors and attacks that were off the mark.
“Every team we play in the Southern Region, it’s the team that makes the fewest errors that is going to win,” Willett said. “If we had eliminated a few errors along the way, it could have gone the other way.”
SWOCC’s defense was solid, but wasn’t quite as strong most of the match Wednesday, in part because the Lakers’ two expected middle blockers both are out with knee injuries.
“We know our weak point is blocking,” Willett said. “We’re working on that every day.”
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Without the strong presence at the net, Rogue’s athletic outside hitter Noelani Beard had 14 kills, while Violett Togagae had 10 kills and two stuff blocks.
Santoyo led the Lakers with 14 kills as part of a strong match that also included 18 digs and two aces. Clark had seven kills, 13 digs and two stuff blocks; Flitton had six kills and six digs; Parks had six kills; libero Shay Zener had 19 digs; and setters Colledge and Natalie Sale combined for 29 assists and Sale had three aces.
Rogue beat the Lakers for the second time this year and, impressive for a first-year program, still has not lost a match.
“I thought we could compete,” Nelson said. “I knew we had kids that were athletic, but I didn’t know how they could mesh together.
“I didn’t expect we would be 9-0. I’m happy they are coming together.”
Nelson is no stranger to NWAC — she coached at Grays Harbor for six years before coming to Rogue — but she is new to the South Region. And like Willett, she expects it to be tough.
“I think it’s going to be a battle every night,” she said.
Both teams now head north to the Centralia Crossover in Washington where, ironically, they will meet for the third time this year on Saturday.
SWOCC is home again next weekend to face Clark and Mount Hood.
SWOCC’s men and women had different results in their South Region openers against Portland on Wednesday.
The men scored late in their match for a 1-0 win over the Panthers, while the women fell 5-0 in the doubleheader at Eugene.
The men won with a goal by Chino Mez in the 87th minute, assisted by Kodai Kobayashi.
Aieu Diaw earned a shutout in his first start at goalkeeper.
“The back line and goalkeeper made a great defensive effort for us, and in the end our persistence in attack gave us the goal we needed,” SWOCC coach Brad Williams said.
Portland’s Yenevi Ortiz scored a pair of goals and also had an assist in the women’s match. The Panthers had two three goals in the first half and two more in the second.
SWOCC’s men play at Lane next Wednesday. The women are at Rogue on Saturday before playing the Titans as part of a doubleheader with the men on Wednesday.