YUMA, Ariz--- A short-handed squad grabbed an early lead before the Arizona Western College Lady Matadors (15-13 overall, 8-4 ACCAC) suffered a difficult setback at the hands of the Mesa Thunderbirds (16-8 overall, 8-6 ACCAC) Wednesday night at The House.
Falling behind 6-2 to open the first set, the Matadors found rhythm behind Melissa Garciglia Banuelos’ service run flip the score and be up 11-8. The Matadors extended the lead, 18-12, behind Jovana Papaz back-to-back kills. AWC closed out the first set 25-17.
Mesa took the early lead once again 6-2 in the second set. This time, the Lady Mats could not find the combination to register consecutive points until they closed the gap to 13-11. But Mesa extended their lead behind Alyssa Barbagallo’s service run that put the T-Birds up 23-16 before they took set two 25-18 and evened the match at a set a piece.
Mesa took control of the match early in the third set pushing the Lady Mats behind 5-2 early. Garciglia Banuelos delivered two kills that tied that game 5-5. But the Matadors offense stumbled by four errors to extend Mesa lead 12-7. The T-Birds capitalized on these errors when their offense struck with more three kills and one ace advancing their lead to 17-8. The Thunderbirds would finish the third set 25-11 over the Matadors, gaining a 2-1 match lead.
The Matadors hole looked deep from the start of set four, falling behind 6-0. The Lady Mats fought back to tie the set behind Papaz’s two aces and Honor Owens’ three kills. Both teams battled, fighting back and forth until the first match point for Mesa came at 24-23. Papaz delivered a thunderous kill to prolong the match and AWC even gained a set point. But Mesa got behind their star Lauren Palmer who delivered the final two points for the Thunderbirds as they took the set 28-26, and the match 3-1.
Garciglia Banuelos had 14 kills to lead the Matadors while Papaz finished with 7 kills and 5 aces.
Arizona Western wraps up conference in Thatcher, AZ on Friday against Eastern Arizona College. The match will start at 7:00pm.
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.