Information for this report provided by Pima College media relations:
The Aztecs lost to Johnson County (Kan.) Community College on Tuesday in the first round of the NJCAA Division II Tournament in a hard-fought game that came down to a fifth tiebreaking set.
The match marked the first appearance in the NJCAA Tournament in the history of the Pima volleyball program.
The No. 13 seeded Aztecs fell behind in their match with No. 4 seed Johnson County 2-0, but rallied to force the fifth-set tiebreaker. Pima would drop the tiebreaking game and lose 3-2 (25-18, 25-18, 21-25, 23-25, 15-7) to the Cavaliers.
The Aztecs were in danger of being swept as they trailed the third set 18-13. From there, they rallied off eight of the next nine points to take a 21-19 advantage.
The Cavaliers scored the next point, but back-to-back kills from freshman Haley Duncan (Walden Grove) and sophomore Eve Pearson (Canyon del Oro) gave Pima a 23-20 cushion. The Aztecs closed it out three points later, but still trailed 2-1 in the match.
The Aztecs trailed early in the fourth set, but rallied yet again. Down 16-12, they scored the next eight of 10 points to take a 20-18 lead. The Cavaliers tied it at 20-20, but two miscues put the Aztecs up again at 22-20. Pima found themselves tied again at 23-23, but errors cost Johnson County as the Aztecs tied the match at 2-2.
Johnson County’s attackers were ultimately too much for the Aztecs, who lost the fifth set 15-7.
The Aztecs move to the consolation bracket where they will play No. 12 seed Neosho County Community College on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m Tucson time at the Alliant Energy Powerhouse Arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Pearson led the Aztecs with 13 kills, 37 total attacks and 14.5 points. She also added six digs. Freshman Kaylee Moseley (Marana) finished with eight kills and 30 total attacks.
Freshman Karla Soto (Nogales) finished with a double-double of 41 assists and 11 digs while sophomore Aydalis Felix (Rincon/University) posted 28 digs.
Sophomore Holly Stutz (Cienega) contributed with seven kills, five digs and two blocks while freshman Andrea Vigil-German (Ironwood Ridge) finished with seven kills, 31 total attacks and eight digs.
Pima head coach Dan Bithell was proud of the way the Aztecs fought back from 2-0 deficit in the match, and is looking forward to the consolation bracket game on Wednesday.
“I was really proud of our grit and determination, It would have been easy to throw in the chips in the third set and just say, ‘we’re happy just being here,’” Bithell said. “We certainly found determination and were able to turn the game in our direction. That’s a hard thing to do.
“Obviously we’re still alive to play for a high place and that’s our goal. We’ve got to recover physically and mentally.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. He is currently attending Pima Community College where he writes for the Aztec Press. Next semester he will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he will work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.