The No. 7 Salt Lake Community College Bruins dominated the No.16 Northern Idaho College (NIC) Cardinals in 3 sets (25 – 20, 25 – 19, 25 – 20). The Bruins, playing on their home court, took down the Cardinals in a defensive match that looked like the team that broke first would go on to win it.
SLCC faces No. 8 College of Southern Idaho (CSI) on Saturday, Oct. 25 at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus. This is the final regular season home game with playoff implications. First serve is at 1 p.m. SLCC students get in free with their OneCard. This game will celebrate the sophomores.
The Bruins currently are undefeated in conference play at 7 and 0. CSI is second in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) with a 6 and 1 record.
The top seed hosts the regional finals. With a win, SLCC gets a 2 game in the loss column lead with only two away games left to play. Those last two games are against teams that have 1 combined win.
Both teams set the tone early with defensive stands. Long rallies were punctuated by outstanding blocks at the net and amazing dives across the floor. Neither team could take an inch, so they had to wait for other team to flinch.
SLCC tried numerous dink plays that just didn’t work. While a well-placed dink can keep the other team off-balance, SLCC dinks just set NIC up for a spike. With the teams tied at 5, Bailee Kendall made her move with a kill that seemed to break the Cardinals.
The Cardinals hit the ball long and committed an error that allowed SLCC to go up 8 – 5. A pretty shot from the Cardinals that found the corner was answered with a shot that was too long. With the Cardinals being their own worst enemy, SLCC was able to use its defense to score.
Carol Grasso hit a powerful shot from the middle that left the Cardinals dazed and gave the Bruins an 11 to 7 lead.
At 15 – 10, NIC took a time out that resulted in an exchange of serves that went out. After a good defensive stand that didn’t help the Bruins, Grasso killed the Cardinals softly with her next hit and then returned a ball to the Cardinals that they just couldn’t get to. NIC took another timeout with the score 18 – 12.
NIC made a run at the Bruins behind the powerful serves of Leeta Grap, who fumbled it with a serve out and the score 23 -18. A powerful kill and Britney Chilcott stuffing Janessa Koelliker at the net gave the Cardinals 2 more points, but a play out of bounds and a Kendall kill gave the Bruins the set.
In another set where SLCC decided to lightly tap the ball over the net, NIC had real issues receiving the ball on the serve. The Cardinals just couldn’t get a bead on it. The Bruins started to swagger, and it felt like they could turn it on and take over the game at any time.
A Mariana Pilon dig resulted in a Grasso kill for the first point of the game. Grasso also scored the second point. SLCC errors and Grasso getting rejected at the middle of the net gave the Cardinals the lead at 2 – 3. A long serve tied the game at 3, then SLCC dropped 2 points because of the NIC defense.
The Bruins took the lead at 11 – 10 on a long serve by the Cardinals. NIC wouldn’t get any closer.
Baylie Henrie served up an ace to make the score 22 – 18. Henrie then made a heroic dive that saved the play for the Bruins. Sequoia Lofton was able to put a dink through the NIC defense to make the score 23 – 18. Pilon made a heroic dive that just wasn’t good enough, but Campbell spiked the ball through the defense, and NIC hit the ball too long to give SLCC the set (25 – 19).
The Bruins played it loosey-goosey and spotted the Cardinals a 2 – 6 lead. Yet, the set still felt like it was going to go to whichever team broke first, and the Bruins hadn’t broken yet. Even the sidelines were completely different with the NIC coach scowling and tense, and the SLCC Bruins laughing at the antics of photographer David Hubert during a stoppage in play. Normally, that would be a cause for concern, but the Bruins played above the Cardinals.
A Koelliker kill that overpowered the Cardinal defense was followed by a Grasso kill that spiked into the hands of the defense as if that was exactly where she wanted it to go. Grasso followed that play with a defensive play that gave the Bruins the tie at 9.
SLCC and NIC exchanged points, and then NIC scored 2 points in a row – one on a set kill. Grasso attacked the defense with abandon for the next point, and Jillian Campbell paired up with Lofton to score a point on defense. Grasso and Campbell combined on the next play to stop the Cardinals defensively. The score was 14 – 12 and the Cardinals took a timeout.
The Cardinals tied the score at 15, but the Bruins took the lead for good on a perfectly placed Grasso kill from the back.
A Koelliker kill at 21 – 18 started a 4 point surge by the Bruins. The defense led to a Grasso kill. Henrie set the ball behind her and over the net, which resulted in the Cardinals hitting it out of bounds. Campbell rose high above the net to send the ball back with her defense. At this point it was clear that SLCC was toying with the 16th ranked team in the nation. With the score 24 – 18, NIC scored the next 2 points, 1 on a miscommunication by SLCC. The game ended with the defensive play of the Bruins scoring the last point at 25 – 20.
Grasso was named player of the game and had 16 digs and 16 kills to match her jersey number 16. The Bruins honored alumni volleyball players at half time, and the team received its 2012-2013 Academic Team Award by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. It was one of only four teams to receive the award.
James Sjostrom was named Honorary Coach for the Bruins prior to the game. He is a Crossfit trainer who is working with the team and owns Crossfit NRG.