The Eastern Wyoming College volleyball team, fueled by home-cookin', surged to a 4-1 weekend that included the team's first win against a nationally ranked opponent.
The Lancers knocked off No. 12 Utah State University Eastern on Saturday, and also picked up wins against Trinidad State, Dawson and Colorado Northwestern as part of the Wyo-Braska Invite, a tournament co-hosted with Western Nebraska.
"This was exactly what we needed," EWC head coach Dante Geoffrey said. "We had hit a rough patch, mentally moreso than anything, and Saturday was us persevering and learning how to win against tough opponents.
"Who knows what this season will look like when it's all said and done, but this could end up being a pivotal weekend for us."
EWC struggled to a 1-3 weekend at Northeastern Junior College's tournament the weekend prior, but any potential crisis was adverted thanks to the team's willingness to communicate and learn from its mistakes.
"We talked about commitment and accountability, about why we're all here," Geoffrey said. "Sometimes, especially after a couple losses, things can get contentious, but it's only because we all want the same thing. We had some talks, both as a team and one-on-one, and I think we all got a better sense of each other and what we need to succeed."
Heading into Saturday, the Lancers were coming off a Friday night loss to No. 13 Salt Lake (17-25, 18-25, 25-21, 19-25) and were in search of a big boost for the next challenge against the 12th-ranked team in the nation.
Enter freshman middle blocker Lauren Feierabend, who had 10 kills (.429 hitting percentage), three block assists and three service aces to help EWC to the upset 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 25-18 of USUE.
"Lauren can be a difference-maker every time she steps out on the court, and there's no better proof that how unstoppable she was against a team that looks nationals bound," Geoffrey said.
Freshman libero J'Adore Hayes had a game-high 26 digs to lead EWC's back row.
Sophomore setter Lexi Trowbridge led the Lancers with 27 assists and earned a double-double with 14 digs.
"The front line is going to stand out in the highlights, but we couldn't have competed the way we did without everyone sticking to our gameplan and doing their job," Geoffrey said. "The passing, the defense, the decisions are setters were making, all of it. That was awesome. Those players fought so hard and deserve every bit of that win."
The Lancers opened their weekend with a Thursday night sweep (25-15, 26-24, 25-20) of Colorado Northwestern.
Pržulj had a game-high 14 kills, Hosly added eight (.312) and sophomore Tina Betham had six kills and only one error (.357 hitting percentage).
All three Lancer setters earned double-digit assists – Volz 14, Trowbridge 10, freshman Vittoria Cacciavillani 10.
EWC out-killed Dawson 36-20 to earn a 25-20, 25-19, 25-17 victory against the Buccaneers Friday afternoon.
Pržulj had a game-high 14 kills (.407) and Hayes led all played with 18 digs. Trowbridge had 10 assists followed by nine from Cacciavillani and eight from Volz.
The Lancers wrapped up the weekend with a 25-13, 25-14, 25-12 win against the Trinidad State Trojans.
Once again, the attack was crisp as Eastern tallied 50 kills in just three sets.
Pržulj (19), Hosly (10), Feierabend (10) and Betham (seven) led a balanced and efficient attack that put an exclamation point on the statement they made earlier in the day against USUE.
"Though it didn't carry the same weight as beating a ranked team, going out there and asserting our will like that was a great way to finish the weekend," Geoffrey said. "After an exciting win against a team like Utah State, you wonder a little if there will be an emotional drop-off, but there wasn't at all and that says a lot about this team's character."
Hayes and Hosly had 17 digs each and Cacciavillani had a game-high 24 assists, two aces and was third on the team with five digs. Volz had 17 assists and four digs. Feierabend added three total blocks.
The lone loss of the Wyo-Braska came against the Bruins of Salt Lake.
Pržulj and Hosly had 13 kills each, Trowbridge had 20 assists and 16 digs and Hayes had 10 digs and 2 aces. Feierabend was second with five kills and had 3.5 total blocks.