A red-hot Arizona Western College volleyball team flexed its muscles Wednesday night inside “The House”.

AWC struggled in the early stages before overpowering a depleted Eastern Arizona club in four sets by the scores of 25-21, 25-27, 25-13 and 25-15.

The Matadors (13-5, 7-1 AIA) pushed their win streak to four games and have been winners in 11 of their last 12 contests. On the opposing bench, Eastern Arizona – which stood atop the ACCAC rankings a week ago – dropped its fourth straight contest.

The Gila Monsters are snake-bitten by a COVID outbreak within the program and were missing six players and their head coach Wednesday. And AWC took advantage of a weakened Eastern Arizona program.

“It was the second set (comeback) that led them into the third (and fourth) sets,” AWC coach Lorayne Chandler said. “The girls did a good job of fighting and keeping their composure.”

AWC dominated the final two sets from start to finish, racing off to early leads and never looking back. The Matadors’ service attack proved to be the difference in the four-set victory. Natalia Slazynska and Naomy Vergez tallied eight of the Matadors’ nine aces in the final sets. Their performances discombobulated a once strong Eastern Arizona defense.

“Volleyball, like any sport, is all about momentum,” Chandler said. “Once we got our momentum and put a lot of pressure on the other team, they tend to crack. Our girls did a good job keeping the pressure on (Eastern Arizona) and I think serving aggressively makes that happen.”

Eastern Arizona entered with just 26 blocks through 19 games this season. But the Gila Monsters front line unit seemingly shut down the Matadors’ potent offensive attack in the first two sets. Eastern Arizona tallied double-digit blocks in the loss, but more importantly, forced Arizona Western to adjust its offensive approach.

The Matadors attacked more down the baseline and cross-court kills began the norm late.

“There are times when we’re too readable,” Chandler said. “They stacked up on the outside. That’s something we’re used to and the girls learn how to pick up balls off the block.”

Anny Montano led the Matadors with 16 kills on 44 total attacks. Constanza Silva – the most consistent hitter for AWC – tallied seven kills in the victory, Vergez emerged into the starting lineup for the first time in over five weeks.

Her impressive play during AWC’s win streak jolted Chandler to put her second-unit spark plug into a starting role.

“She had a good night against Glendale,” Chandler said. “She had a good night against Pima. We’re always checking the stats and if they have a good night, they’re going to play.”

Vergez’s 11 kills are a season-high.

The Matadors are now 8-1 on their home court this season and hold a slight lead over Scottsdale Community College in the ACCAC rankings. With five games remaining – including a date with Scottsdale – Chandler is aiming for her team to remain focused on the task at hand.

“It puts a bigger target on our back,” she said on AWC holding the top spot in the conference. “We have to control the controllables.”

Jackson Ramer can be reached at jramer@yumasun.com.

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