Wranglers fall to NMMI in 5 set Thriller

Wranglers fall to NMMI in 5 set Thriller

The Odessa College volleyball team entered its Western Junior College Athletic Conference home opener looking to keep its unbeaten record intact.

New Mexico Military Institute had the same goal in mind.

In the end, it was the Lady Broncos who found a way to rally back and defeat the Lady Wranglers, 20-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 16-14, Wednesday at the OC Sports Center.

The victory kept the Lady Broncos perfect record (18-0, 2-0 WJCAC) intact while Odessa College (18-1, 1-1) suffered its first loss of the season.

"I told the girls that sometimes you win and sometimes you learn," Odessa College head coach Kristi Gray said. "Tonight was a learning experience for us." 

Things started off strong for Odessa College as it took control early on with a 12-6 advantage before the Lady Broncos ran off seven straight points to take the lead.   

The Lady Wranglers regrouped and took control again thanks to the front line as the team closed out the set with four of the team's 18 assisted blocks to take the first set.

"It was awesome to see that early on," Gray said. "Our front line has been huge for us this year. We've been one of the top blocking teams in the nation and so I expected that from us. Whenever they do that, they take some pressure off the back row so that was good to see early."

The second set went back-and-forth early but NMMI got settled defensively and took advantage of a number of errors from Odessa College to even the match.

"I think our defense just kept us in it," NMMI head coach Shelby Forchtner said. "We tried to serve it tough so that they (Odessa College) couldn't shove it down our throats. I thought the defense did a great job of coming through in clutch situations."

Odessa College answered back in the third set, by jumping out to a 6-2 lead and building a 14-5 advantage midway through. The Lady Broncos made a late push down 24-14 with five straight points but an error ended the charge.

 NMMI regained momentum in the fourth set and started to pull away with a 20-13 lead. The Lady Wranglers tried to claw their way back in it down 21-17 but a kill from Vittoria Price was the boost the Lady Broncos needed to force a fifth set.

The deciding set proved to be a reverse of how the third set went as NMMI earned the first four points of the frame. The Lady Broncos got it to match point at 14-9 but Odessa College did not go quietly, running off five straight points to even things at 14-14. The errors, however, caught up with Odessa College again as NMMI earned the final two points to take the match.

"Odessa College is one of the better teams in the nation and it's good that we played this kind of competition," Forchtner said. "That game could have gone either way and we just have to get better from here, especially on offense."

As for Gray, she was disappointed being on the losing end for the first time this season and knows that the mistakes have to get cleaned up moving forward.

"We've always been good at fighting and we've done it multiple times this season," Gray said. "We just have to learn to not put ourselves in that position because if we take care of business, we hold on to the lead. Unfortunately for us, we committed too many errors."