CASPER, WYO. – Wallace State volleyball's season came to an end Friday as the Lions lost to the State College of Florida Manatees, 16-25, 25-19, 17-25, 26-24, 13-15, in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I consolation round at the Casper Events Center.
Syretha Pride paced the Lions with 17 kills and Bethany Johnson added 12 kills and six digs in the final Wallace State match for both sophomores. Wallace State finishes the season at 35-10.
Wallace State, which was made its sixth consecutive trip to the NJCAA national tournament and a state-best 15th overall, and the Manatees alternated wins in the first four games Friday, but the State College of Florida prevailed in the end, edging the Lions in the final set.
"We had our chances to win the match. For us to just win sets at this level with Alabama girls, you've got to be happy about that. We wanted to go out winners, but it didn't happen," said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel, the 2014 Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) Coach of the Year. "I'm very proud of this group. We accomplished a lot this year."
Wallace State punched its ticket to the NJCAA Division I tournament after winning its sixth consecutive ACCC/Region 22 tournament championship and seventh straight regular season title. The Lions didn't drop a single set to a conference foe all season.
The Lions, seeded No. 16, opened the NJCAA tournament on Thursday with an 18-25, 17-25, 22-24 opening-round loss to top-seeded Iowa Western.
Wallace State nearly notched its first tournament win since 2010 on Friday.
The State College of Florida, located in Sarasota, never trailed in the first game, maintaining leads of 7-3, 10-5 and 18-12 before pulling away to earn the win.
The second game was tight throughout, featuring 11 ties. Neither team led by more than five points, and Wallace State won the game by breaking a 17-17 tie with a 7-2 surge.
In the third game, Wallace State trailed early before notching it at 10-all. The State College of Florida, the No. 8 seed, then reclaimed the lead, rolling out to an 18-12 advantage, and never relinquishing it.
The fourth game was as equally as close as the second with neither team controlling more than a three-point advantage. Wallace State trailed 8-5 and 9-7 before battling back to tie it at 11-11. The Manatees regained an 18-15 lead before the Lions roared back again. Wallace State tied it up at 18-all and closed it out with a 26-24 victory.
Wallace State had to play from behind throughout the final game, yet forced a 13-13 tie after trailing 12-9. The State College of Florida secured the match victory by scoring the final two points.
BreAnna Thompson finished with 12 kills and five digs for Wallace State, Montana Clark had 11 digs and three kills, Alexandra Gamble had 24 assists and seven digs, Kaci Kirk collected 24 assists, CeCe Hall had six kills and Sarah Ellen Battles added six digs.
Maja Ristic had 19 kills for the Manatees and Lea Lieb had 44 assists.
It was the final Wallace State match for six sophomores: Pride, Johnson, Thompson, Clark, Kirk and Olivia Walker. They were a part of two state championships at Wallace State and 65 overall wins.
Pride was the 2014 ACCC Player of the Year and the conference leaders this season in kills, blocks and hitting percentage.
Thompson was the 2014 ACCC/Region 22 tournament MVP and a first-team All-Region selection. Clark was also a first-team All-Region selection, while Johnson was named to the second team
"All of sophomores played well today (Friday). Their leadership and commitment over the last two years has been great," Daniel said. "We are definitely going to miss all of them."
Daniel now has 293 career victories after seven seasons with the Lions.
Other Wallace State players this season not previously mentioned are Melissa-Paul Hill, Katelyn Bishop, Teryn Simmons, Kheala Roberts and Stephanie Eckerd.