Wagstaff Gymnasium was abuzz with excitement as cheers echoed through the building as the Tyler Junior College and Trinity Valley Community College volleyball teams faced off in a Region XIV conference game on Wednesday night.
The Apache Ladies, ranked No. 4 in the nation, came away with the victory defeating the Lady Cardinals in three straight sets (25-15, 25-19, 25-22). The win puts TJC's overall record at 26-2 with a 7-0 Region XIV record while dropping TVCC to 24-6 and 4-3.
Bri'Ja Watterson, a sophomore from Houston, led the way for the Apache Ladies with 15 kills and 2½ blocks. Longview native and setter Emily Shelton had 36 assists while Eileen Acuna, a freshman from Risaralda, Colombia, had 14 digs and Aleksandra Gligoric, a freshman from Krupanj, Serbia, had seven kills.
TJC scored the first point of the match opening with a kill by Watterson and the Apache Ladies used that momentum to score four unanswered points to go up 5-0. A few mistakes by the home team allowed TVCC to make up some ground to make it 6-4. The teams kept the score close until the Apaches broke away on a pair of kills by Aerielle Edwards, a sophomore Haltom City, to go up 15-10 prompting a Cardinals timeout. TJC capitalized on TVCC's lack of communication continuing their scoring run. Morgan Lewis, a sophomore from Wichita Falls, closed the set for the Apache Ladies with an ace on the back line as TJC took the first set 25-15.
In the second set, the teams kept the score close with neither side being more than two or three points ahead. However, a pair of crucial blocks by TJC followed by TVCC hitting several balls out of bounds allowed the Apaches to increase its lead to 21-16. The Cardinals tried to mound a small comeback but TJC took the 25-19 win.
Both teams went back to their locker rooms to take a quick breather and fans were allowed to serve volleyballs toward hoops lying on the floor on the other side of the net. If any balls hit inside the hoop, the fan won a T-shirt. With the three winners satisfied and the break being over, the teams came back to the floor to play the third set.
TJC was the first on the board but looked a bit rusty going through the first part of the set. With Lewis serving, they were able to score four points to keep an 11-7 lead but the TJC bench seemed frustrated after the four previous missed serves.
The Cardinals took advantage of that and gained its first lead of the night, pulling ahead 15-14 prompting a TJC timeout. The Apache Ladies worked to tie the game at 18 points apiece and the momentum changed with the excitement of the crowd. The teams worked to reach a tie at 21 before a block at the net put TJC up 22-21. From there, the TJC defense held on to win the third set 25-22 and take the match.
Tyler next plays at home next Wednesday in a conference matchup against Panola College. The match is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
The Cardinals play host to Wharton County Junior College at 2 p.m. Saturday in Athens.