Buccaneers finish strong in 3-1 victory over Wharton to open conference

BRENHAM, Texas – Blinn College volleyball dished Wharton County Junior College a 3-1 loss to start Region XIV play on a high note on Monday night in the P.E. Building.

The Blinn Buccaneers topped the Wharton Pioneers by the scores of 24-26, 25-18, 25-21, and 25-16.

Paola Marie Salas Adorno led the Buccaneers with 14 kills and three aces, while Claire Chapman and Amina Olajuwon followed with 12 kills each. Kayla Valigura and Roxanne Morris combined for 11 blocks on defense.

"Our conference is really hard so it is never an easy night and always nice to get the first conference win," said Kalie Mader, Blinn head coach. "We started a little sluggish, so I am proud of them for coming out with the win and taking care of it in four."

The Buccaneers and Wharton played head-to-head in the first set until Wharton gained a 19-15 lead. Blinn fought back as kills by Valigura, Olajuwon, and Morris leveled the score 19-19 before Wharton took off again. Adorno jumped in with three of Blinn's next four points to even the score 23-23, but the Buccaneers fell just short of finishing off Wharton as they lost 26-24.

In the second and third sets, the Buccaneers and Pioneers continued to play close, but it was Blinn who pushed through in the final minutes of both sets. Tied 14-14 in the second set, kills by Adorno and Morris allowed Blinn to take a 19-15 lead. Four consecutive errors by Wharton gave Blinn a 25-18 victory to even the match. In the third set, Blinn trailed Wharton 19-18 until Adorno jumped in to score five of Blinn's next six points with three aces and two kills. An error allowed the Buccaneers to take the set 25-21 to lead the match 2-1.

"Each game we play, we are getting better at pushing towards the end of the match and that is just a characteristic of this team," Mader said. "It has been pretty common for us to be behind and then win."

In the final set, the Buccaneers' momentum broke through as they built a 15-7 lead over Wharton. The Buccaneers continued to build the lead to 22-12 with consecutive kills by Morris and Olajuwon. Blocks by Valigura and Adorno gave Blinn the final point needed to win the fourth set 25-16 for the match.

"We had a set goal and knew we needed to take business," said Chapman. "It is really exciting to win the first conference match because we all have the same goal and are fighting for the same thing."

The Buccaneers increased their overall record to 10-3 and Region XIV record to 1-0. Blinn will take on Laredo Community College on Friday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. in a conference match in the P.E. building.

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 36 NJCAA national championships since 1987.