RCTC volleyball will have to battle through injuries at region tournament
The Rochester Community and Technical College volleyball team is two wins away from earning a berth in the national tournament.
ROCHESTER — With the season on the line, the Rochester Community and Technical College volleyball team is battling injuries.
The Yellowjackets may have to rely on their depth if they are going to win a Region XIIIA title and advance to the NJCAA Division III national tournament.
RCTC will take part in the four-team Region XIIIA tournament Friday and Saturday at Century College in White Bear Lake.
The Yellowjackets (20-9) are the No. 3 seed from the South and will face Itasca Community College (16-5), the No. 2 seed from the North, in the region semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday. The first game will feature Century College (21-5), the No.1 seed from the South, against Central Lake Community College (15-13), the fourth seed from the North.
The Yellowjackets did not face Itasca or Central Lake during the regular season and split a pair of matches with Century College. Century is ranked No. 6 in the nation among NJCAA Division III teams and RCTC is No. 9.
Injuries could be a major concern for the Yellowjackets. Alexis Simpson is out with a knee injury and Kennedy Hady of Rochester will likely miss the tournament with an ankle injury. That’s the loss of two big outside hitters at the net.
“It’s pretty big,” RCTC coach Jennifer Nerison said.
Middle hitter Triniti Gbala of St. Charles had stepped up her game at the net late in the season. A week ago she was the MCAC Southern Division Player of the Week.
“She’s just really working her angles and finding the spots … and just playing smart ball right now,” Nerison said.
Kiley Nihart, leader at libero, also excelled in the win against Viterbo after Kennedy went down and RCTC rallied for a 3-2 victory. The Yellowjackets are going to need a well-rounded effort during region play.
“We have pretty good defense and our middles Triniti (Gbala) and Bailey (Johnson) have really stepped up this last part of the season,” Nerison said. “Their energy, the way that they play defense up at the net, the rest of the team just feeds off of it.”
But overall, Nerison said the Yellowjackets have been inconsistent and have been making too many unforced hitting errors at the net. Injuries have not helped, but RCTC will likely have to limit errors if it wants to contend for the region title.
“We talk about just keeping our energy and focus consistent,” Nerison said. “We have some good runs, but this last Saturday in all of the sets we just got behind right away, we got in a big hole. A big part of that was our unforced errors.”
The Yellowjackets have been serving well and Nerison said when that happens the timing of the opponent’s offense can be affected.
“All around, we just need to play our game and just focus on what happens on our side of the court,” Nerison said. “That’s what we need to do.”
The winner of the Region XIIIA tournament will advance to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament, which will be held on the RCTC campus on Nov. 9-13.
This year the Region XIIIA and XIIIB tournaments are being split with two teams from both the Northern and Southern Division for the first time. Previously the four Southern teams would play in Region XIIIA and the four Northern teams would play in Region XIIIB.