Red Hawks fall to Raiders in nationals opener

Red Hawks fall to Raiders in nationals opener

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Catawba Valley Community College volleyball program will have to wait another year for its first-ever national championship.

The 10th-seeded Red Hawks fell to seventh-seeded Grand Rapids in three-straight competitive sets during the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) DII tournament on Thursday morning at the Charleston Civic Center.

Set scores were 25-21, 25-21 and 25-23.

Despite the loss, Catawba Valley Community College head volleyball coach Shannon Hudson isn't disappointed with the performance of her players.

"We knew it would be tough competition going in," Hudson said. "Our girls played well. We had a few more errors in the first set than we typically do. That kind of hurt us. It took away some of the momentum going into the match. They fought back hard so I can't be upset. They worked hard together. It was a little too late. It was a tough loss, but we are excited about our next matches. We've got a chance to come back and play some more volleyball. We're trying to look to that and take the focus off the loss this morning."

Emma Clark and Rachel Delcamp paced Catawba Valley (33-10) with 10 kills apiece in the contest.

The Red Hawks tried to fight off not only the Raiders (30-6) in set one, but also some nerves, which led to five missed serves during the set. Grand Rapids was able to capitalize to take a competitive back-and-forth first set.

"They just played really nervous that first set and missed some key serves," Hudson said of her players. "It's just hard to get going whenever you work hard to get the ball back and then you miss your serve. That was a struggle for us."

In set two, CVCC led Grand Rapids 17-14, but the Raiders would utilize a short serve and stout play in the middle to win 10 of the next 12 points and seize control late en route to closing out the set victory.

"In the second set, we played better, but so did Grand Rapids," Hudson said. "It was back and forth. We were up by a couple of points. Their big ball in the middle is something we typically don't see. We had a difficult time defending that."

Tied 8-8 in the third set, Grand Rapids reeled off three-straight points to take a small lead that they would carry into the final stages of the contest.

A kill by Delcamp helped pull Catawba Valley within 24-23 during the closing moments of set three, but another kill — this time by the Raiders' Autumn Severn — snuffed out any potential for a Red Hawk rally, ending the match.

"I think we made some nice adjustments in the third set and came within one right there at the end, but it just was not quite enough to get over that hurdle and send us to a fourth set," Hudson said.

While a national championship isn't attainable for her program in 2018, Hudson is setting her player's sights to another goal — winning three matches at the national tournament for the first time in program history and finishing as high as they can, which is ninth place.

The Red Hawks face 15th seed Northern Virginia Community College (17-13) in their first consolation match on Friday morning at 10 a.m. The losing team is eliminated from the tournament.

A victory against the Nighthawks would put CVCC in the 4:30 p.m. match Friday afternoon against the winner of No. 14 Oakland (20-10) and No. 11 Lake Sumter State (15-13) with the winner of that contest playing in the ninth-place match at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

"We've been saying since the beginning of the year that we've got such a young group and to make it to the tournament this year is a huge stepping stone for us heading into next season when we're going to have mostly experienced players," she said. "For them to get to be here, play in huge games like this and feel what it's like and get past some of the nerves, I think it's definitely good for our program. Our goal for the rest of the tournament is to go out and play our best and hopefully come out with three wins, and I think we have the potential to do that if we keep fighting hard and together."