By Lucas Barlow
The road for the Hutchinson Community College volleyball team will end in its own arena, as the NJCAA National Championship is being hosted at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The season has been a rollercoaster of emotions so far for the team, but they’re not done yet. As the No. 15 seed, the Blue Dragons opened the national tournament on Thursday against the No. 2 seed, Iowa Western.
The journey to the national championship hasn’t been an easy ride but it certainly has been a memorable one.
Hutchinson opened the Region 6 tournament against a good Dodge City Community College team, who the Blue Dragons took down 3-0. The semifinals was more of the same, as they breezed by Garden City Community College 3-0. This set up a marquee matchup against the No. 3 team in the country, Seward County Community College – a team Hutchinson lost to only a week previously.
As the underdogs, the Blue Dragons shocked the NJCAA, as they upset the one-loss Saints in three sets, thanks to the efforts of sophomores Paige Hiebert, Tatyana Ndekwe, and Patricia Joseph.
Hutchinson coach Patrick Hall had many positives to say about his team.
“Although Seward had one of their best teams in many years, we definitely played one of our best matches of the season,” Hall said. “Each set was won by two points, so it doesn’t get much closer than that, but we stayed focused, and did what we had to do. It was a great win.”
The Blue Dragons claimed the Region 6 title that night, but their journey is far from over. In just over a week, Hutchinson had to prepare for a talented Iowa Western team, an opponent that was all too familiar. In late September, the two teams met for the first time, a match that ended in a nail-bitter, with Iowa Western winning 3-2.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the team is looking forward to playing Iowa Western,” Hall said. “Although they have some talented athletes, we’re confident that we can play with teams of that caliber.”
Although the Blue Dragons will be underdogs on their home court, Hall still believes in his team and has many keys to success.
“We need to be a strong inside-out team, meaning we need to establish our middle, so it opens up our outside for scoring opportunities,” Hall said. “Defense is also another big key. We’ve been playing really good defensively lately, and if we can continue that in the tournament, we’ll be able to play with anybody.”