The North Platte Community College Knights welcomed the 2019 season in dominant fashion on Friday.
NPCC (2-0) opened the season at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium with a pair of sweeps over Garden City Community College and Hesston College — both from Kansas — on the first night of the Mid-Plains Subway Invite.
From one (25-16, 25-16, 25-11) three-set sweep over the Broncbusters of Garden City to another (25-16, 25-18, 25-20) over the Larks, the Knights’ consistency on both sides of the net kept a grin on head coach Alexa McCall’s face from beginning to end.
"What more can a coach ask for than straight sets in both games," McCall said. "We were a little nervous coming in because we’re young and haven’t played against someone that’s not our team, but they showed a lot of toughness and that was nice to see."
The toughness came from seasoned sophomores coming off last year’s Region IX Div. II title, but it also flashed in a few local freshmen like Sutherland’s Erica Hopping and Mullen’s Alysen Daniels.
"(Hopping) is doing a nice job, but I think part of that is having a lot of hitters to choose from," McCall said. "I think that she’s got options every time she goes up and that makes us hard to defend."
Hopping led the Knights in her NPCC debut, finishing with seven kills, 18 digs and 79 assists through two games. Daniels added 15 kills, finishing third on the team behind returning outside hitters Sydney Mullin (18 kills) and Gabby Menghini (24 kills).
The Knights’ defense, led by Bailey Chintala’s 29 digs, Menghini’s 20 and Mullin’s eight blocks, kept both Garden County and Hesston inconsistent throughout the night, yielding little room for runs.
For every Broncbuster or Larks’ run, the Knights responded with one of their own.
"We got ourselves in a couple of holes in both games, but they were able to dig themselves out each time," McCall said. "I think part of that is our sophomores, who are doing a great job of leading the way and pushing the freshmen."
The Knights’ largest run of the evening came against Hesston, which had taken an 18-14 lead in the second set before NPCC’s 11-0 run equalized the game at 18 apiece before taking the lead back to win 25-18.
Hesston also came within striking distance of taking the third set, leading 16-14 at one point, but an 11-4 rally sparked by four consecutive Menghini kills solidified the sweep in the end.
The Broncbusters opening set against NPCC proved the closest in the first game, yielding three lead changes and six ties among both teams.
NPCC closes out the Mid-Plains Subway Invite today Canadian-based Durham College at noon followed by Eastern Wyoming at 2 p.m.