No. 19 Buccaneers open Kruse Kickoff Classic with two wins

BRENHAM, Texas — No. 19 Blinn College volleyball (8-0) opened the 2019 Kruse Kickoff Classic with two wins Friday in the Kruse Center. First, the Buccaneers defeated North Central Texas College, 3-0 (25-16, 25-12, 25-17), before beating Ranger College, 3-2 (22-25, 25-15, 25-12, 24-26, 16-14).

"We came out really focused and when we pass like we did today, we are really good," said Terry Gamble, Blinn head coach. "The freshmen are getting better all the time and they really care about each other, so that is nice to see."

Blinn 3 – North Central Texas 0

The Buccaneers opened the tournament with a sweep over North Central Texas College, 3-0.

"It feels really nice to open the tournament with a win," Paige Havel said. "We came out strong and kept our consistency going and played really well as a team. We realize that we have to really bring the intensity to be able to stay focused in the match and we have good chemistry."

Giulia Hortelan led the offense with nine 13 kills, Essence Clerkley followed with nine and Havel recorded eight. Jenni Liu tallied 36 assists in the match.

Kya Yanez was strong on defense, recording 14 kills, while Taylor Henderson recorded one block and three block assists.

Blinn jumped out to a 6-3 lead to begin the match and held onto the lead for the remainder of the set. Henderson, Hortelan and Havel strung together four kills for the Buccaneers to stay on top 20-12. Autumn Dowell served the game-winning point for the 25-16 victory.

In the second set, Blinn's defense, led by Yanez with five digs, and Henderson and Havel with two block assists apiece, held North Central Texas to 12 points. Kills by Henderson and Havel pulled Blinn ahead 22-12, and Chloe Mullin's ace finished off the Lady Lions, 25-12.

The Buccaneers and Lady Lions played a close third set until kills by Tamia Hall and Hortelan allowed Blinn to break away with an 18-12 lead. Blinn went on a 7-5 run finished off with a kill by Henderson for the 25-17 victory.

Blinn 3 – Ranger 2

Blinn finished the day with a 3-2 victory over Ranger in order to remain undefeated.

Clerkley led Blinn with 18 kills, while Hortelan followed with 17 and Liu chipped in with 59 assists.

On defense, Mullins led with 27 digs, while Yanez followed with 26.

After losing the first set 25-22, the Buccaneers fought hard for the next two victories. Mullins and Yanez combined for 12 digs in the second set for a 25-15 victory, while Havel led Blinn with six kills in the third set for a 25-15 win. 

Ranger managed to rally back in the fourth set for a 26-24 win to even the match 2-2. However, Hortelan recorded six kills to help lead Blinn to a 16-14 win in the fifth set to win the match.

Next, Blinn will finish the Kruse Kickoff Classic on Saturday, August 31. The Buccaneers will face Temple College at 1 p.m. and No. 3 Iowa Western Community College at 5 p.m. 

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 41 NJCAA national championships since 1987.