The Lamar Community College volleyball team is off to its best start since 2013 after going 4-1 at the Quiznos Classic Aug. 23-25.
The host Lopes defeated its first three opponents in straight sets before beating Cisco in five and suffering its first loss in four sets to Butler.
"Overall we are very pleased with how this tournament went," LCC head coach Dante Geoffrey said. "We know the talent in our gym is higher than it's been in previous years and I think that paid early dividends. The exciting part is we are barely cracking the surface of our potential at this point in the season. It will be fun to see what this team is like when we figure out a few things and peak in a couple months."
The season started with a bang on Thursday, August 23, when the Lopes fed off a loud and energized crowd on their way to a 25-21, 25-11, 25-18 win over Frank Phillips.
Sophomore setter Emily Longnecker orchestrated the LCC attack (38 kills and a .375 hitting percentage) with 34 assists. She added three kills herself and earned a double-double with 11 digs. She also scored a service ace.
Sophomore outside hitter Anamarija Mikovic repeatedly brought the crowd to its feet with 16 emphatic kills and a .444 hitting percentage. She also scored four blocks, an ace and seven digs.
"It was great to see those two connect so well in our season opener," Geoffrey said. "We have a talented and deep team but it's imperative Emily and Anamarija find their connection and continue to strengthen that throughout our season."
Transfer sophomore Jillean Cooper-Watson was second on LCC with seven kills in the middle. The former Vincennes University player hit a near-perfect .875 on her errorless night while scoring another 3.5 blocks.
Freshman outside hitter Charlène Hosly led the Lopes with 15 digs, while also adding five kills and a block assist. Sophomore libero Sarah Polanco was second with nine digs and led the team with four aces.
Lamar won both of its Friday matches by way of sweep. First was a 25-21, 25-13, 25-19 win against Dodge City, followed by a 25-21, 25-16, 25-14 defeat of Pratt.
Hosly led the Lopes with 10 kills and just one error for a .562 hitting percentage against the Dodge City Conquistadors. Mikovic added nine kills and seven aces while sophomore Alex Riley and freshman Ellie Cooper each had three kills.
Longnecker had 27 assists and five digs.
Polanco led with 19 digs, followed by 11 from Hosly, eight from Mikovic, and four from freshman Peyton Greeson.
Hosly again paced the Lopes with an ultra-efficient match against the Beavers. The France native had 10 kills and no errors on 13 attempts (.769). She also tied Polanco for the team lead with six digs while contributing one ace.
Mikovic had 10 kills, five digs and an ace.
Longnecker again averaged double-digit assists with 31 in the match. She kept the defense off-balance with three kills.
After nine straight set victories, the Lopes knew they'd have to be ready for when adversity hit. That opportunity came Saturday morning.
After a 25-17 opening-set win against Cisco College, the Lopes dropped the second set 27-25. The Wranglers rode that momentum to a 25-19 win in the third set, pushing the Lopes to the brink of their first loss.
But Lamar responded with lineup and formation changes and won the fourth and fifth sets by a combined score of 40-14.
"That was a match our blood pressure could have done without, but will undoubtedly benefit us in the long run. It's good to get that experience early on, and hopefully it helps us learn how to maintain a competitive mindset throughout each match," Geoffrey said.
Hosly had 13 kills, four aces and seven digs. Mikovic had eight kills, six assists and seven digs. Longnecker tallied 33 assists and two aces, and freshman setter Valorie Walker stepped in with seven assists and three kills when the team needed her most.
"We were very impressed with how Val responded in a big situation," Geoffrey said. "We'd have liked to ease her into her first weekend of college volleyball, but that match necessitated a shake-up if we were going to win, and she proved she was ready for the moment."
Polanco led with nine digs, Dotter had six kills, and Cooper and freshman Allie White each added four kills.
Lamar closed its weekend with its lone loss, a four-set defeat (25-22, 15-25, 26-28, 25-27) to Butler.
After escaping the first set with a win, the Lopes couldn't handle Butler's counterpunch and narrowly missed taking a 2-1 lead and, later, forcing a fifth set despite holding a 24-22 lead in the fourth set.
"It's not fair to dwell on that one loss just because it was the last game we played," Geoffrey said. "Yes, it was probably one that got away, but we simply didn't play well enough to win, and Butler did. With 10 freshmen you're going to have games like that. Now we know what that's like, to have it within reach and then let it go. We'll be in that position again, I'm sure, and we'll be better prepared for it thanks to this match."
Mikovic and Hosly each had 15 kills, while Dotter's six and Cooper-Watson's five rounded out the offense.
Walker led with 22 assists while Longnecker had 21 assists, 5 digs and two aces.
Mikovic tallied a team-high 15 digs, Polanco had 11 and Hosly added nine.
The Lopes travel to La Junta on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 for games against Frank Phillips, Indian Hills, Hesston and North Platte. Lamar next hosts a game on Sept. 27 against Northeastern Junior College.