YUMA, Ariz. – The Arizona Western College volleyball team refused to lose on Friday night in the Region I/District B Championship against Eastern Arizona College. The Lady Mats squandered an eight point lead in the third set and went down 2-1 but bounced right back and won the fourth and fifth sets. They won the match 20-25, 25-16, 25-27, 25-20, 15-6.
The third set seemed all locked up once Arizona Western (26-2 overall) took a 24-16 lead after Stephany Orjuela smacked home a kill. Instead, EAC (22-9 overall) reeled off eight straight despite two Arizona Western timeouts. After a service error put AWC up 25-24, the Gila Monsters won the last three points to win the set 27-25.
Arizona Western bounced right back in the fourth set. A Jessica Rafay kill, Karen Asprilla solo block and Sofia Lopez ace gave AWC a 6-1 lead. Rafay led the team with 12 kills and added 10 digs.
The Gila Monsters battled back and closed the gap to one three times: 10-9, 11-10 and 17-16. Asprilla swatted down a kill that jumpstarted a six point spurt for AWC. She finished with nine kills and five blocks. Rafay ended the set with a kill off Eastern Arizona’s setter to win 25-20.
Early in the fifth set, the two sides traded points back and forth. With the score tied at four, Eastern Arizona’s libero Kailee Kay served the ball out. AWC’s Keana Smalls hammered home a pair of kills, and two Eastern Arizona errors gave Arizona Western a 9-4 lead. Smalls had eight kills, three aces and six digs.
After an Eastern Arizona timeout, Arizona Western kept the hammer down and scored six of the final eight points to win 15-6 once Eastern Arizona’s Antonia Steinback passed the ball over and out to end a long rally. During the run, Smalls served a pair of aces and Orjuela killed the ball to make it set point. Orjuela was named the Region I Tournament MVP after racking up 45 assists, two kills, two aces, 13 digs and three blocks.
In the first set, Eastern Arizona took advantage of early Arizona Western College errors. The Lady Matadors hit negative on the set as the Gila Monsters won 25-20.
The polar opposite happened in the second set. Arizona Western hit .300 as a team with 12 kills and stormed out to an early lead. Deja Lester racked up four of her seven kills in the set, and Eastern Arizona never looked comfortable as the Lady Mats won 25-16. Mafe Sandoval and Lester combined for a double block to win the set. Lester led the Lady Mats with six blocks.
Lopez led the Lady Matador defense with 21 digs as four different players had at least 10 digs. Sandoval added 18 digs and nine kills.
Now Arizona Western heads to the NJCAA National Tournament from November 17-19. Check back at www.awcmatadors.com once the tournament seeds are released to see the team’s first opponent.
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.