The Lady Rustlers of Central Wyoming College took their show on the road Friday and Saturday for a four-match venture into the Valley of the Sun at the Scottsdale Volleyball Classic.
Unfortunately for the Orange-and-Black, they got plenty of sun but little else in the way of satisfaction on the court, losing all four of their matches.
On Friday, against Eastern Arizona College, Kayla Coles had 10 kills, while Tamara Lukic and Jensen Paris each had 10, but it wasn't enough in a 3-1 (25-18, 25-18, 25-27, 25-20) defeat.
The Rustlers showed resolve in winning the third set after dropping the first two, but it ended up being the only game they would win the entire tournament.
Rylie Haderlie had 16 assists for the Rustlers, while Brooklenn Thompson added 20 digs in a losing effort.
In their second match on Friday, Glendale Community College was the opponent, but the results were the same in a 3-0 (25-21, 25-6, 25-20) loss.
Rylee Burmester had eight kills, Haderlie 12 assists, and Alyssa Barkhurst and Burmester each contributed 12 digs.
On Saturday, Mesa Community College provided the opposition. After being blown out in the opening set, the Lady Rustlers came back to make it close in the final two stanzas but still came up short, 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-23).
Jensen Paris and Bailey Wilson each had six kills to lead Central, while Haderlie had 11 assists. Barkhurst was the leader with 16 digs on the match.
Finally, against host Scottsdale Community College, Central again showed fight, requiring extra points to stave off defeat in the first and third sets, but still ended up on the losing end, 3-0 (26-24, 25-16, 28-26).
Coles had her best performance of the tournament, with 15 kills, while Lukic had 10.
Thompson had six assists and Lukic 26 digs on the day.
According to Rustlers head coach Darshaya Gallard, her squad was up against tougher opposition than in the opening week of the season.
"The competition level was steeper than the teams we faced in Sheridan," said Gallard. "The hosting team, Scottsdale Community College, competed at nationals last season. The record may not show it, but they were all hard-fought matches."
Gallard said the ability is there -- what needs to be there more often than not is the mental side of the game, especially in close games.
"The difference between us winning and losing those close sets is our focus," she said. "As a team, we're fully capable and talented. We just have to learn to be more consistent, keep the leads we create for ourselves in finishing a set."
An epiphany Gallard has had in this her first season as a head coach, it's the relative inexperience of her squad, she said.
"As we get further into the season, I'm learning and realizing our team is young. These girls are just freshmen and sophomores and sometimes I do need to slow it down and go step-by-step with them," she said. "Also, we're capable of anything we set our minds to -- we just have to set our minds to it first. They're a smart and talented group of young ladies -- we just need that 'click' or 'ah ha!' moment and once we have that, we'll be unstoppable."
Gallard hasn't been taken by surprise by much this season, she said.
"The only thing that's surprised me so far has been some of the conference opponents we play," said Gallard. "Overall, I feel very well-adjusted and eager to implement a strong volleyball program at Central Wyoming College."
However, despite all the feel-good around her club right now, a win would go a long way right now, she said.
"It's so important to get a win at this point in the season, especially entering conference play next week with an opener against Northwest College," said Gallard. "We need a morale-booster and I believe WyoBraska is the perfect opportunity for it."
Next, Central (2-5) play in the WyoBraska tournament Friday and Saturday, where they will face four more opponents before returning to Rustler Gym for its home opener against Northwest College on Sept. 22.