BRENHAM, Texas — No. 20 Blinn College volleyball (27-3, 3-2) cruised past Wharton County Junior College, 3-0 (25-10, 26-24, 25-12), in its final home game of the season in the Kruse Center on Sophomore Day.
"We played really well in the first and third sets, and had to fight through the second set, but I am happy that we got the win," said Terry Gamble, Blinn head coach. "It was the last match at the Kruse Center for the sophomores and I am proud of what they have accomplished in the last two seasons."
Essence Clerkley led Blinn's offense with 15 kills, while Rachel Barnett, Taylor Henderson and Paige Havel all chipped in eight. Jenni Liu came up with 42 assists, while Giulia Hortelan recorded 10 digs and six kills. Hortelan, Chloe Mullins and Tatum Smidovec each tallied two aces in the win.
"It feels awesome to get the sweep and is exciting to know that we have a good chance of clinching a spot in regionals so soon," Barnett said. "I am going to miss the tightness of this team because you get so close on the junior college level. I love playing with a group that has the same goals and desire to win, so look forward to enjoying the rest of this season with them."
Blinn was strong on offense and defense in the first set for a 25-10 win. Hortelan served two aces to help the Buccaneers break away with a 12-6 lead. Clerkley led Blinn on a 5-2 run with two kills and a block assist for Blinn to hold a 20-8 advantage. The Buccaneers finished the set on a 5-2 run for the victory.
Blinn had trouble pulling away from Wharton in the second set. Henderson came up with a big kill to keep the set tied up 22-22. However, Blinn and Wharton continued to play back and forth until the set was tied 24-24. Clerkley deliverrd a kill for Blinn to pull ahead and an error on Wharton gave the Buccaneers a 26-24 victory.
In the third set Blinn leaped to a 16-9 lead. A 5-1 run led by Clerkley with two kills kept the Buccaneers on top 23-11. Kaitlyn Pollard finished the set with a kill for Blinn to win 25-12 and earn the sweep.
"It is a bitter-sweet moment because we have worked hard all season to get a chance to play in regionals, but it isn't time to relax because we need to keep pushing hard in conference and go as far as I can," Mullins said. "This team is my second family and it is great to be a Buccaneer and call Blinn home. I am going to miss our fans, coaches and my teammates when this season is over."
Next, Blinn will head on the road to face No. 2 Navarro College on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m.
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 41 NJCAA national championships since 1987.