Casper, Wyo. – The Arizona Western College volleyball team couldn’t quite overcome mistakes, and a missed call after a bad break finished the team off. The ninth-seeded Lady Mats lost to eighth-seeded Sante Fe College 26-24, 20-25, 25-18, 25-21.
Despite the mistakes, Arizona Western (26-3 overall) had a chance to rally and send the match to a fifth set. With AWC down 22-21, Santa Fe’s setter Caylee Cox set the ball in the middle, and Sterling Williamson hit the ball wide to seemingly tie the match at 22. Instead, the line judge called a touch on Arizona Western, and AWC head coach Lorayne Chandler asked for some clarification. While she was talking with the official on the floor, the chair official blew the whistle to signal play to start incredibly quickly. AWC was whistled for being out of rotation to set up match point, and Santa Fe blocked the ball to win the set and match.
In the first set, Arizona Western dug itself a 9-4 hole early. Jessica Rafay killed the ball to start a six point AWC run capped by a Georgia Romine-Black kill that put the team up 10-9. Rafay (15 kills, 117 digs) and Romine-Black (nine kills) led the Lady Matador offense.
Santa Fe answered immediately, and Nadine Williams picked up a kill to put her team back up 11-10. She led all hitters with 17 kills.
The Lady Mat retook the lead at 17-16 after Santa Fe’s Cox was called for a double hit. A double block by Mafe Sandoval and Deja Lester pushed it to 18-16. Lester finished with eight kills, eight block assists and two aces.
AWC kept a three point lead after libero Sofia Lopez snuck a set over and down to make it 23-20, but three errors helped Santa Fe come back and take the first set 26-24.
In the second set, Arizona Western came out aggressively and with more energy. Lester had a pair of blocks to start the set and set the tone.
The set remained tight and was tied at nine when Romine-Black tipped the ball home for a 10-9 lead. That jumpstarted a 6-0 spurt for the Lady Mats that Romine-Black capped with a kill that made it 15-9.
Santa Fe managed to close the gap to 17-16, but AWC middle hitter Karen Asprilla swatted a ball to the floor to stop the run. The Lady Mats maintained the lead through the rest of the set, and Lester and Rafay finished it with a pair of kills that made it 25-20.
In the third set, Arizona Western never found a good rhythm. The team had 12 errors and fell behind early. Santa Fe jumped out to an 8-2 lead. Asprilla tooled the SFC block to start a three-point spurt, but SFC’s Tina Mayberry ended the run with a kill that put Santa Fe up 9-5.
Arizona Western again trimmed the lead to three but couldn’t put together a long run to close the gap further. Santa Fe took the set 25-18 after the Lady Mats were in the net.
AWC setter Stephany Orjuela finished with 38 assists, 16 digs and four kills. Lopez led the team with 20 digs and added seven assists.
The loss moves AWC to the consolation bracket. The Lady Mats will play Hill College tomorrow at noon. The winner of that match will continue to play, while the loser’s season will be over.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.