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Tue, Oct. 22

Roughriders give Matadors the horns
Junior College Volleyball

Yavapai S Pilar Daugherty (2), L Heather Wanninger (6) and MB Lacie Tenney (14) celebrate after scoring the team’s 23rd point during the fourth set in a 3-1 win over Arizona Western on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at Yavapai College. (Aaron Valdez/Couirer)

Yavapai S Pilar Daugherty (2), L Heather Wanninger (6) and MB Lacie Tenney (14) celebrate after scoring the team’s 23rd point during the fourth set in a 3-1 win over Arizona Western on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, at Yavapai College. (Aaron Valdez/Couirer)

PRESCOTT — If every match was smooth sailing, the Roughriders would have no meaning to their own name. Yavapai’s conference match against Arizona Western on Wednesday was just the latest installment of the team showing exactly why they’re called the “Roughriders.”

Heading into Wednesday’s home match, the Roughriders were on a six-game winning streak but the last two games featured close five-set battles with Eastern Arizona and No. 18 Mesa. Ultimately, Yavapai still managed to weather the rough waters and rode out to victory in both games, much like they did against Arizona Western, who were undefeated in conference action.

by Aaron Valdez

In the first set, Yavapai came out guns blazing, looking to put the game away early. The Roughriders used the energy from their boisterous home crowd and ended up blitzing the Matadors 25-9 for 1-0 set lead.

However, the Matadors recovered nicely after getting caught off guard and looked like a completely different team the rest of the match. Arizona Western gave the Roughriders a real challenge in the second set, leaking out to multiple four-point leads before the Roughriders clawed back into it for a tight 25-23 win.

“We said for the last day or so —because we got to play [Arizona Western] several times this year — that this is going to be a war and each one of these is going to be a battle. And it’s going to be tough and none of them are going to be easy,” said Yavapai head coach Zachary Shaver. “But I was really proud that we came out very focused and very disciplined and took advantage of them having a little bit of a slow start.”

As Shaver alluded to, Yavapai’s strong opening set and the way they absorbed the Matadors’ onslaught in the second set ultimately paid off. The third set belonged to Arizona Western 25-17 as the Roughriders began to stray away from what made them so successful in the first two sets.

“The big thing was that we were just swinging without an intention of where we were going to hit the ball,” Shaver said. “In the first two sets, we were hitting around the block and putting pressure on their back-row defense and in Set 3, we were swinging for the fences and getting blocked a lot of times.”

For a majority of the fourth set, Yavapai controlled the tempo and held a decent cushion over Arizona Western until the final stretch. Facing a 23-17 deficit, the Matadors made one last-ditched effort at a comeback and scored four unanswered points.

Despite a sense of uneasiness amongst the team and around the gym, the Roughriders pushed through and got the last two points they needed for a 25-21 win. On the winning play, Yavapai setter Pilar Daugherty — who was recently named ACCAC Volleyball Player of the Week — set up outside hitter Kennedy Wright for a spike that went out of bounds after it deflected off two Matador blockers.

Wright led the Roughriders in kills with 13 and also picked up nine digs and five blocks. Other notable performances included Lacie Tenney, who finished with 12 kills at an impressive .455 clip, and Annie Harte, who tallied eight kills and 11 digs.

“We were just talking about it and it’s just something we’re used to at this point. I don’t want to say that but it just feels natural,” Harte said of the team’s seventh consecutive win. “We are having a good season but we have everything against us so we just got to keep going.”

UP NEXT

The Roughriders (13-2, 5-0 ACAAC) will stay on their home court to host Chandler-Gilbert (2-7, 1-1 ACCAC) in another conference match on Friday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m.

Aaron Valdez is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email avaldez@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.

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