The ninth-ranked Blinn College volleyball team returned to its winning ways with a sweep of Region XIV foe Panola College on Thursday at the Kruse Center in Brenham, Texas.
The home victory pushed the Buccaneers to 27-2 overall and 6-1 in the region.
Blinn showed no signs of fatigue following a tough five-set region road loss to fourth-ranked Navarro College on Tuesday. Though Panola kept pace and went toe-to-toe with the Bucs for the entirety of Thursday’s match, Blinn prevailed behind its reliable offense and a retooled rotation which focused on ball control.
“It was nice to bounce back after Tuesday night’s loss,” Blinn head coach Terry Gamble said. “The key to tonight’s match was Kirby Kliafas’ serve receive. She did a tremendous job and that was pivotal in tonight’s win.”
Kliafas, a freshman who typically plays a libero role for Blinn, dipped into her secondary position as an outside hitter against the Fillies, picking up a pair of kills while also providing stability in serve receive. Of the 57 balls served to the Bucs, Kliafas received and passed 50 of them.
“Our serve receive was really good, I think we sided out pretty quickly, and our middles did really well on their block,” Kliafas said. “Tonight’s win was important because we were pretty upset after Tuesday, and we brought that frustration and some fight into tonight’s match.”
After the Bucs secured the first two sets of the night, they needed a rally in set three to complete the sweep.
A Panola block put the Fillies ahead 7-6 early, but an error by the visitors followed by a double hit violation and a Blinn service ace from freshman setter Chloe Howard put the Bucs ahead for good.
Sophomore middle blocker Brooke Pattschull successfully defended a Fillies spike to set up match point for Blinn, and after a brief Panola rally, the Bucs emerged victorious thanks to a service error.
(Pictured: Blinn’s Kellen Dorotik spikes the ball through a pair of blockers during a match against Panola College on Sept. 21, 2023)
Freshman right-side hitter Kellen Dorotik tallied a team-high 15 kills and pushed her NJCAA Division I-leading total to 368. Pattschull added 11 kills. Howard and fellow freshman setter Elizabeth Tyner handed out 21 and 14 set assists, respectively. Howard finished with three service aces, followed by a pair for Dorotik.
Defensively, freshman libero Cierra Pesak posted 18 digs and now has 457 on the season, also best in the nation. Kliafas added 12 digs. At the net, Tyner and Kliafas had one solo block apiece, while Pattschull tacked on four block assists.
Next up for the Bucs is a region road trip to Wharton County Junior College slated for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27, in Wharton, Texas.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 44 NJCAA national championships since 1987.