WEST PLAINS, Mo. — The Apache Ladies made history Thursday by reaching the Elite 8 in the NJCAA Division I National Volleyball Tournament for the first time in the school’s history.
Tyler Junior College achieved its goal after defeating Redlands Community College (Okla.), 3-1 (25-15, 25-8, 20-25, 30-28), in an afternoon match at the West Plains Civic Center.
But carving a bigger notch in the record book must wait for another time after TJC lost its second match to Texas rival San Jacinto, 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-23).
The Apache Ladies now play Hillsborough Community College (Fla.) at 2:30 p.m. today. The best outcome they can have in the tournament is fifth place.
During the match against Redlands, the Apache Ladies cruised through the first two games, but got stopped in their tracks during the third when the Redlands toughened its defense and worked much harder on offense.
TJC rallied for a comeback in the fourth game, but barely maintained enough momentum to prevent a tiebreaking game.
The Apache Ladies didn’t appear too happy about the win and carried that apparent concern into the match with San Jacinto, a team they have played five times before nationals, winning only once.
The Lady Ravens took control of the match early, whipping through the first two games without much resistance from TJC.
TJC coach Ronda Shirley then gave her team a stern lecture and some encouragement — and it apparently worked.
The Apache Ladies came out of the huddle with determination and battled back and forth with San Jac early in the game.
Tyler then claimed the lead during freshman Izzy Krahl’s turn as server. The Apache Ladies were able to string together at least five points, including two ace serves from Krahl.
The Apache Ladies maintained the lead with the help of kills from Ivana Bulajic and Jordan McArdle.
The two teams again exchange leads several times before San Jac finally was able to claim the victory.
Shirley said watching some of the good things her freshmen players did during the match gives her hope for next year.
“But I don’t want to think about next year. I want to think about what we are doing right here, right now,” she said. “I’m proud that we are in the Elite 8 — the team that came here before was never able to do that.”