WEST PLAINS, MO. – Wallace State Community College volleyball started Thursday afternoon with a bang, winning its first set against fourth-seeded San Jacinto (Texas) College-Central at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I national championship held at the West Plains Civic Center in West Plains, Mo.
The 13th-seeded Lions (42-4) weren't able to sustain the upset bid though, losing to San Jacinto 25-21, 15-25, 20-25, 20-25 and dropping a first-round match for the third straight year.
"We played great the first set and put the pressure on San Jacinto early, but we didn't finish down the stretch," said Wallace State coach Randy Daniel. "We made some mental mistakes and ball control errors and you can't do that and expect to win against a quality team.
"We need to come back tomorrow (Friday) and put ourselves in better positions to close sets and finish strong."
Lesley Bemis led Wallace State in the loss with 13 kills and four digs, while freshman Brooke Beasley had 27 assists, six kills and three assists.
Callie Miller finished with 23 digs for the Lions, Amelia Moore had seven digs and six kills, Erica Baker and Bekah Myers combined for 19 kills and Caelin Light added 11 assists.
Wallace State jumped out to a 7-0 lead in Thursday's initial set and extended it to 20-13 and 22-16 before closing out the set with a four-point cushion.
San Jacinto (31-3), last year's national runner-up, didn't let Wallace State gain much momentum in the final three sets, concluding the match with three consecutive wins.
Wallace State is making its state-best 12th national appearance.
The Lions resume action in the double-elimination tournament Friday at noon vs. Mineral Area (Mo.) College.