By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-With six freshman on the opening-night roster, first-year coach Casie Lowden expected growing paints. And despite some nice moments on Wednesday, mistakes ultimately did Garden City in.
Anouk Van Noord had eight kills and a couple of blocks as Otero swept the Broncbusters 25-20, 25-15 and 25-15 at Conestoga Arena.
"You could tell we were inexperienced," Lowden said afterwards. "This was a lot of these girls' first game, so there were a lot of first-game jitters."
That was evident early on as the Rattlers built an early 6-1 edge. Garden City (0-1, 0-0) eventually settled in, and Ashley Brown's service ace evened the match at 7. It was of three ties in the opening frame.
"This team has a lot of heart," Lowden said. "We are young, but we are very close as a team. That's going to help us in tough times."
From there, the Bronbusters went on the attack. Katie McHugh's assist setup an emphatic Adisyn Swan spike, followed by a net violation and another Swan kill that gave Garden City their largest lead of the set, 10-8. But the Rattlers responded with four straight points, and after the teams exchanged blows, Otero broke open a 15-15 tie by scoring 10 out of the final 15 points, finished off by Savannah Espinosa, who shoveled the ball over the net for set point.
"We did a lot of good things," Lowden said. "It will only get better."
The second game was nearly identical to the first. There were five ties early on, with the Broncbusters drawing even at 10 when Maria Isabel Butruce Candiota's serve sailed out of bounds. But Otero took over from there. McHugh's service error led to a mini Rattler run, Brilane Manchego setup Ema Causevic for a kill, and Maria Autobee blocked Swan to make it 15-10. Eventually Otero stretched that advantage to nine before Van Noord's kill closed the set.
"Watching how our girls fought tonight made me excited for the rest of the season," Lowden explained.
That fight was on display in the third set after Otero built an early 8-4 lead once Autobee blocked Jessica Forbes. Following a timeout, the Broncbusters got a kill from Swan and errors by Van Noord and Elizabeth Mullet; coupled with a Brown block, pulled Garden City to within one, 12-11. But as they did most of the night, the Rattlers answered with five straight points. They stretched that to nine again before Brown's crosscourt spike went wide left, giving the Rattlers their first victory of the season.
"Overall, things went better than I thought they would," said Swan, who made quite the debut with two aces, three kills and a block in the first set. "We just have to fix the mistakes, and we will be okay."
Swan finished the night with seven kills, and McHugh added eight assists.
"Adisyn is definitely going to be an offensive weapon for us this year," Lowden said. "She came in with ball control, something our other freshman are still trying to figure out."
Next up: New Mexico Military (NMMI Classic) Friday, Aug. 24 at 12 p.m.