TJC posts conference sweep of Navarro

Returning sophomores on the Tyler Junior College volleyball team include (from left): Hadyn Beatty (Oklahoma City), Alysha Rogers (Franklin), Sadie Hilburn (Whitehouse) and Bridget Hanafin (Clever, Mo.). (Courtesy Photo)

The Tyler Junior College volleyball team accomplished a couple of goals on Monday. The Apache Ladies earned their 16th sweep of the season and tinkered with the lineup in a 25-21, 25-12, 25-23 win over Navarro at Wagstaff Gymnasium.

Ivana Bulajic, a 6-3 freshman from Serbia, paced No. 5 TJC with five kills in each of the first two games as the Apache Ladies got off to a sluggish start but then made quick work of the Bulldogs in the second set. Jacqueline Santos finished off Game 2 with a back-row kill.

“I just think we came out flat in Game 1,” said TJC coach Ronda Shirley, whose team improved to 19-1 overall and 5-1 in conference. “I think they come out and wait to see if they’re going to be pushed … instead of coming out and playing our game. It’s a little disappointing at times … they turned it around and came out and played our game.

“We served more aggressive, but really I think it was our focus and intensity that was different.”

The Apache Ladies made a switch in Game 3. Sadie Hilburn of Whitehouse moved to the left side and had five kills; Santos went from the middle to the outside; Bulajic moved to the middle, Bridget Hanafin to the right side and Alysha Rogers to libero.

“I just think we needed to see something different on the outside, and plus (Hilburn and Santos) are our two best all-around players as far as passing and defense,” Shirley said. “It keeps them in every rotation on the pass.

“I just feel like sometimes we need to switch it up against people. They know a lot of what we’re going to do and if we need to throw a different card out there, we’ve got to start maybe working on it a little bit.”

Navarro (14-7, 1-5) took a 15-14 lead in Game 3 before TJC won three points in a row. The Apache Ladies took the lead for good, 18-17, on a Navarro hit that landed wide of the court. 

TJC built a four-point cushion but had trouble finishing the match. Two errors contributed to Navarro getting within 24-23 before the next Bulldog serve landed wide to give TJC the final point.

Coached by former John Tyler three-sport star Kristee Porter, Navarro lost its fifth consecutive match since the starting setter quit the team.

“It’s hard when you can’t run your offense as smoothly as you would like to run it,” said Porter, who played her final season of professional volleyball in 2010 in the Puerto Rican league.

Autumn Ellison, a 6-2 freshman from DeSoto, had a team-high eight kills for the Bulldogs.

TJC’s leaders were Bulajic (11 kills, one block), Santos (10 kills, one block, 10 digs), Haydn Beatty (six kills, four blocks), Hilburn (five kills, six digs) and Anuhea Keanini (three kills, 36 assists, one ace, one block).

The Apache Ladies take on No. 19 Panola at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wagstaff Gymnasium.

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