The Buccaneers went 1-1 on opening day of the Region XIV Tournament on Friday, defeating Tyler Junior College in a four-set quarterfinal win before falling to top-seeded and ninth-ranked Trinity Valley Community College in the semifinal round at Panola College in Carthage, Texas.

Blinn (30-9) will need to win two matches in the consolation bracket Saturday to stay alive in the tournament, and could punch its ticket to the NJCAA Division I Volleyball Championship in West Plains, Mo., on Sunday. If the Bucs qualify, it will be their third consecutive trip to the national tournament.

“The girls played hard today,” Blinn head coach Terry Gamble said. “We still have a chance at nationals.”

The Bucs will take the winner of the Wharton County Junior College-Lee College match Saturday at 3 p.m. If Blinn prevails, it would finish tournament play Sunday. 

Blinn opened the tournament with a 22-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-16 triumph over Tyler.

Freshman hitter LaNeah Lara paced the Bucs with 18 kills, while national kills leader and sophomore hitter Kierslynn Wright tallied 14.

Freshman setter Darby Nash had 48 set assists. At the service line, freshman libero Emily Hardee delivered a pair of aces.

On defense, sophomore libero Ellie Turner collected 22 digs, while Wright and freshman utility Kaylen Kruse chipped in 12 apiece. Freshman Don’Yah Cosie had three block assists and freshmen Taylor Glendening and Zuzia Rut each had two.

Trinity Valley swept the Bucs in the semifinal round 25-21, 25-24. 

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 42 NJCAA national championships since 1987.

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