Southwestern runs over opponents at Opening Weekend Tournament

Published 6:55 pm Sunday, August 21, 2022

ROCKFORD, Ill. — Beep! Beep! Here come the Roadrunners.

The Southwestern Michigan College volleyball team, playing for the first time in 26 years, ran over their opponents at the Opening Weekend Tournament hosted by McHenry Community College this weekend.

The Roadrunners, with a roster consisting entirely of freshmen, went 5-1 at the largest junior college tournament in the country, falling only to the No. 5-ranked team in NJCAA Division 2.

After splitting its matches Friday, the Roadrunners went on a tear as they swept Illinois Valley Community College and Lake County Community College on Saturday.

Southwestern swept Kankakee Community College in its first match Sunday before wrapping up the tournament by winning a five-set thriller against Highland Community College from Illinois. The Roadrunners rallied from a 14-12 deficit in the fifth and deciding set to win 16-14.

“This team can literally do anything they set their minds to. They have been together three weeks today and went 5-1 their opening weekend,” said SMC Coach Jenny Nate. “We have some incredibly intense, talented players, and when they work together, they are a blast to coach and watch play. They have learned to finish sets and win together, and today, I really saw them develop grit. In our final match against a tough Highland team, we were actually down 14-12 and came back and won 16-14. It has taken all 15 players on our roster to have such an incredible start.”

Nate said that it all began with the practice and preparation her squad has put in leading up to the season opener.

“At practice, they all put out in 100 percent effort, and during matches, the energy off the court from our bench feeds the energy on the court, and I love watching them all focus on winning as a total team. We have grown immensely in the past three days, and I’m so proud of all of them.”

There is little time to rest for the Roadrunners as they head to Muskegon for a Michigan Community College Athletic Association non-conference match against the Jayhawks of Muskegon Community College Tuesday night.

Southwestern will follow that up with its home opener Saturday at the 1st Source Bank Fieldhouse. The Roadrunners will face rival Lake Michigan College at 10 a.m. and North Central Michigan Community College at 2 p.m.

“We also know we have to rest up tonight and get back to work tomorrow and prepare for a tough Muskegon team on Tuesday,” Nate said.

Nikki Nate (Niles) and Faith Rankin (Battle Creek Lakeview) had a huge day at the net with 30 kills apiece. The two also combined for eight blocks. Nate also contributed five points, an ace and 21 digs. Rankin finished with 17 points, three aces and 22 kills.

Edwardsburg’s Shayla Shears added 19 kills and six blocks, while Bianca Hobson (Kalamazoo Loy Norrix) finished with 14 kills, four blocks, 17 points, a team-high seven aces and 19 digs.

Niles’ Emma Beckman had 83 assists, eight points and an ace. Cadence Knight, also of Niles, finished with team highs in points (28) and digs (35). She also had four aces.

More statistics are available online at leaderpub.com in Daily Data.