In Odessa College's last nonconference match of the regular season, the Lady Wranglers knew that it was their last chance of the season to play with a safety net.
Every match the rest of the season has postseason implications.
Saturday afternoon against Ranger College, the Lady Wranglers made the most of the opportunity and downed the Lady Rangers in straight sets 25-10, 25-23, 25-15 at the OC Sports Center.
The victory puts Odessa College back in the win column after the team dropped a home conference match to New Mexico Military Institute on Wednesday.
"I think after our loss Wednesday against NMMI, we took it to heart and we realized that we do have to play with passion and for the love of the game every time we step out on the court," Odessa College head coach Kristi Gray said. "We talked about that before we came out today and it showed."
Odessa College (16-11) started the match strong by winning nine of the first 10 points and consistently controlling the tempo to jump out to an early one-set lead.
The second set was more turbulent for the Lady Wranglers, who took leads of four and five points at times in the middle of the set, but saw the Rangers close the gap.
Ranger College (11-11) found its way back in the set to tie it 23-23 after trailing since 1-1.
"We can't let teams go on more than two or three-point runs," Gray said. "When we're up, we got to stay up; we can't let them back in it. We have to finish."
The Lady Wranglers held on to take a two-set lead after winning the next pair of points.
"One thing that we've been talking about is playing with more energy and heart for the game, and that when we do beat a team 25-10 in the first set, that we can't let up," Gray said. "That we have to push and play hard the whole match no matter what. We talked about that after the second set and I think we did a better job of focusing on that in the third set."
In that third and final set, Odessa College got its rhythm back from the first and comfortably put away the match.
"That's how we should play and we want to play like that," McKnight said. "I think (the win) means that we know that we can come out with energy, come out and start strong and finish in three rather than like how we played against NMMI."
Odessa College returns to conference action Wednesday at home against Frank Phillips College — which it beat in straight sets on Sept. 6 on open WJCAC play.
McKnight said the team will use what it learned against Ranger College against a conference opponent. The Lady Wranglers got to run plays at a slower pace and focused on what they needed to fix before their last five regular-season games.
"Anybody we play, the competition is good," Gray said. "We don't want to take any team lightly," Gray said. "Frank Phillips, I think, will be a tougher match. They're scrappy and they have more go-to girls and when we played there, it was a close match, so I'm expecting the same thing on Wednesday."
Article by Eric Blum OA