By Con Marshall
The Chadron State College volleyball team wrapped up its regular-season schedule by sweeping New Mexico Highlands in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference match in the Chicoine Center on Saturday afternoon. The scores were 25-19, 25-18 and 25-20.
The win gives the Eagles, coached by Jennifer Stadler, a 15-11 season record and an 8-6 RMAC mark. That’s their most overall victories since they finished 17-11 in 2003—20 years ago. In addition, it will be the only time the Eagles have advanced to the RMAC’s post-season tournament, which has eight participants, since then.
The playoffs will begin Tuesday, Nov. 14, when the sixth place Eagles will meet the third-place Regis University Rangers in Denver at 7 p.m. The other first-round pairings Tuesday have No. 8 Westminster at No. 1 Metro State in Denver, No. 5 Colorado State-Pueblo at No. 4 South Dakota Mines in Rapid City and No. 7 Colorado Christian at No. 2 Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction.
The four first-round winners will advance to the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 17. The championship match will be played the next day. The Eagles are on the bottom side of the bracket along with Colorado Christian and Mesa.
Regis has a 20-6 overall record and finished 12-2 in the RMAC. Although Chadron State won the first set when those teams met in Denver on Oct. 7, the Rangers won the next three sets.
Ironically, the 2003 Eagles finished with a 9-10 regular-season RMAC record and advanced to the conference playoffs. The previous season, they had a 10-9 conference mark, but were not among the eight qualifiers for the playoffs. This year’s CSC team is the first to have a winning conference record since 2002.
The Eagles had balance hitting while defeating the Highlands Cowgirls on Saturday night. They had 41 kills and 16 hitting errors in 100 attempts for a .250%. Highlands had 26 kills, 16 hitting mistakes in 93 hits for a 108%.
Lexi Hurtado, one of the four seniors recognized prior to the match, led CSC at the net with 10 kills and no infractions during 19 attempts for a .526 hitting percenage. Other seniors Rylee Greiman and Mayson Fago had eight and seven kills, respectively.
Junior Alyana Fujiyama had six kills and only one hitting error in 14 swats for .357 figure and also was credited with the team’s only solo block and five assisted blocks. Hurtado and sophomore Bella Adams each had four assisted blocks.
CSC freshman Avery Lacy had a match-high 14 digs. Junior Kally Kirkwood was credited with 19 set assists, while sophomore Rylee Ward had 11.
Freshman Jaylee Gonzalez paced the New Mexico team in the front row with nine kills and only one hitting error for a .444%
Highlands finished its season with a 3-35 season record and won only one of its 14 conference matches.