It was a slow start, but a fast finish for the Tyler Junior College volleyball team.
The Apache Ladies fought off a game point in the opening set before rolling to a sweep over North Central Texas College, 26-24, 25-16, 25-15, Wednesday at Wagstaff Gymnasium. TJC has its first 5-0 start since 2007.
Freshman middle Jacqueline Santos delivered the game-winning kill in the opener, but had a quiet game otherwise. The hitting stats were spread among freshmen Charae Caldwell, Lindsey Jones and Daniela Pena, each with eight kills. Ivana Bulajic, a 6-3 freshman middle from Serbia, contributed six kills and one block.
TJC relied on strong serving later in the match to keep NCTC from gaining momentum. Sophomore Bridget Hanafin had six aces and was on the service line for the final six points of Game 2, when the Apache Ladies finished on an 11-1 run.
“In the first game they were at nine points and we had already missed five serves,” TJC coach Ronda Shirley said. “That’s what really got us behind, but later on they made the adjustment.
“We watched them on film and kind of knew how to take them a little more out of their offensive game. In games two and especially three, it was working by putting the short serves in and kind of taking some of those hitters out of the big plays.”
TJC won the first four points in Game 3 and never looked back. Sophomore setter Anuhea Keanini delivered powerful jump serves and Hanafin mixed in soft serves to help the Apache Ladies go up 11-4.
After NCTC cut a 10-point deficit to six (20-14), TJC finished strong -- getting three kills from Bulajic and one each by sophomores Haydn Beatty and Alysha Rogers, who saw her first action of the season after being injured.
Shirley praised Keanini, a Division I transfer, for her command on the court when her team was lacking intensity. The Hawaiian setter had 28 assists, two blocks, eight digs and two aces.
The Apache Ladies will play in a tournament at Vernon College on Friday and Saturday before returning home on Tuesday to open conference play against Trinity Valley.