Bronchos volleyball spikes Missouri teams as season ends in victories

Northwest Missouri No. 8 Payton Kirchhoefer and No. 3 Avery Kemp go up for a block as UCO No. 10 Lari Migliorino prepares to spike. (JAYDON SIMS/THE VISTA)

The Central Oklahoma Bronchos Volleyball team won back-to-back home matches to finish their season, defeating Missouri Western 3-2 on Friday, Nov. 9, followed by a 3-0 win over Northwest Missouri on Saturday, Nov. 10. 

Missouri Western caught the Bronchos off guard initially, with the Griffons winning the first two sets to take a 2-0 lead (25-20, 25-20). Things looked even more auspicious as Missouri Western took a 7-3 lead in the third set, setting things up for a shock sweep upset for the Griffons over UCO. But thanks especially to a strong 17-kill performance from Sydney Huck, the Bronchos came back to win that set as well as the next two to win the match 3-2 over their MIAA rivals (25-17, 25-18, 15-12). 

The Saturday afternoon matchup against Northwest Missouri saw Central Oklahoma pull a much easier victory, dominating the Bearcats in the first two sets before surging back in the third to claim a 3-0 win.

The Bronchos outside hitters took advantage of the Bearcats’ undersized junior libero Kyah Luhring. At least three times in the first set, spikes from outside hitters sophomore Sydney Huck and junior Mallorie Koehn hit her so hard that she fell to the floor. The Bronchos started to attack the Bearcats’ backcourt for that reason as, after the first time she went down, UCO’s hitters were clearly aiming their shots at the overwhelmed defensive specialist.

Power was not the only way the Bronchos scored points, however, as the hitters and even setter Lindsay Houran fooled the Bearcats’ defenders at the net by finessing it past them into open space on the court. This strategy, as well as a well-timed coach’s challenge, helped the Bronchos separate themselves from a 7-7 tie in the 2nd set before pulling away. 

The Bearcats’ team frequently chanted and sang to urge on their teammates on the court, to the point that it was almost pervasive or irritating. It could be that that’s their intent, is to annoy or distract their opposition. It made the end of the match and the UCO victory that much sweeter, knowing that the team’s chants and singing would come to an end. 

  Jaedynn Evans, the celebrated senior libero and 2022 All-American, was highlighted as she played her final home game of her UCO volleyball career. A large banner with her name hung from the rafters opposite the main seating area, signifying that this day was “Jaedynn Evans Day.” Evans’ total of 19 digs across the three sets may seem like a small number for a libero who ranks 16th in NCAA Division II in total digs. But Evans ranks first nationally in digs per set at 6.32, a number that she matched in her home sendoff. Considering her incredible statistical achievement this season and pronounced leadership skills on the court, she’s a sure shoo-in for a second All-American selection. Her defensive skill set and powerful leadership will both be missed at the Hamilton Field House, but Evans still has an MIAA Tournament, and possible NCAA Tournament appearance, to continue to add to her resume. 

Next up for the Bronchos will be the MIAA Conference Tournament, scheduled to kick off on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 12 p.m. in St. Joseph, MO. The 2nd-seeded Bronchos will take on the 7th-seeded Missouri Southern State Lions, who they previously defeated both times they played this season. 

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