By Sam Ojeda / Staff writer
The theme was a blackout for the students for the Region VI tournament opener. Many fans piled into the Hutchinson Sports Arena on Wednesday night to watch Hutchinson Community College and Cloud County Community College battle it out. Even though the Thunderbirds were only 12-17, they were one of the hottest teams in the conference on a five-match winning streak. The Blue Dragons swept the Thunderbirds in a lopsided matchup.
The start of set one was rough for Hutch CC, which saw them down 16-17 to Cloud CC. Head Coach Delice Downing called her first timeout to rally her team. She told her players, “Remember who you are. Play with your composure.” That is exactly what they did as that would be the only timeout she needed the rest of the match.
The Blue Dragons would go on to win set one 25-20 after finishing on a 9-3 run to end the set. They were led in that set by Freshman Taniya Golden and Sophomore Blondie Penaflor. This performance was necessary to fill the shoes of injured Sophomore Baylee Miller, who had been Hutchinson’s best player all season.
The dominant duo would carry their game into the second set. The Blue Dragons started hot. They were up 7-1 to start the set, but a timeout by Cloud County CC Head Coach Deb Monzon brought the Thunderbirds back. They brought the set closer at a 13-11 score. That only lasted so long, however, because the dynamic duo of Golden and Penaflor would come surging in to help their team win the set 25-19.
The third and final set saw the Blue Dragons start hot 11-2. They did not let it come close. Hutchinson CC would win the set 25-12 and the match 3-0 in a sweep over Cloud County CC.
The dynamic duo of Golden and Penaflor was elite all night. Golden finished with ten kills, and five blocks, and Penaflor finished with nine kills and ten blocks. Coach Downing was impressed by her hitting duo, “Blondie’s ten blocks were amazing for a three-set match. That is hard to beat.” Downing had the rotation set up so that they both were on the floor as often as possible: “Seeing them on the court together is really fun because you got to see them go back and forth.” Golden was also thankful for her teammates who helped her score many points: “We all played as a team together. That is Hutch Volleyball, and that is how it should be done.” Freshman Perline Fry also recorded a career-high in kills with 12, which added to a large number of kills tonight by the Blue Dragons.
The #19 Hutchinson Blue Dragons are slated to play the #13 ranked Butler Grizzlies in the Semi-Final in Liberal. The Grizzlies narrowly defeated the Colby Trojans Wednesday night. This matchup will set up a third matchup this season between the two teams, with Butler taking the first two. Coach Downing expects her team to respond well, “They(Hutch CC) should already have that hunger inside of them after getting beaten twice already. We are going to watch film again, and we are going to go after them like we did tonight.” Hutch CC is now two games away from a Region VI championship, which they have not done since 2017.