Nina Pevic had 11 kills to lead the Blue Dragon in a 3-0 NJCAA Tournament opening-round loss to Iowa Western on Thursday at the Sports Arena. (Allie Schwiezer/Blue Dragon Sports Information)
Nina Pevic had 11 kills to lead the Blue Dragon in a 3-0 NJCAA Tournament opening-round loss to Iowa Western on Thursday at the Sports Arena. (Allie Schwiezer/Blue Dragon Sports Information)

Hutchinson CC Sports Information

Iowa Western had a double-barrel attack that the Hutchinson Community College volleyball team couldn't slowdown in their second meeting of the season with the Reivers.

Caitlyn Cooper and Iria Aleseeva combined for 35 kills to lead the second-seeded Reivers to a 3-0 sweep of the 15th-seeded Blue Dragons on Thursday in the opening round of the NJCAA Division I Volleyball Championship at the Hutchinson Sports Arena.

The Blue Dragons drop their seventh consecutive NJCAA Tournament opening-round match dating back to 2006 and fall to 27-13. The Blue Dragons will play St. Petersburg College in a first-round consolation match at 10 a.m. on Friday. Tenth-seeded St. Petersburg lost to seventh-seeded Tyler in three sets.

Sophomore right-side hitter Nina Pevic led Hutchinson with 11 kills on a career-high .688 hitting percentage.

"It was really exciting to play this national tournament on our home floor," Pevic said. "We have the best fans. The result wasn't the result we wanted, but we will keep going."

Sophomore Page Hiebert was next with eight kills on .226 hitting. Now with 865 career kills, Hiebert moves past Ludmila Amaral into third place on the Blue Dragon career kills list.

Sophomore Patricia Joseph had six kills on .312 hitting.

The Blue Dragons were out-hit .322-.260 on Thursday. The out-blocked the Reivers 6-1.

Sophomore Katie Jorn just missed a double-double with 26 assists, nine digs, three kills and three blocks. Jorn, who ranks fifth in career assists, surpassed the 1,700 assist mark (1,701 career assists).

Freshman libero Raychel Reed had 10 digs. Hiebert had seven. Iowa Western had 59 digs to the Dragons' 40.

Cooper had 21 kills on 38 swings and hit .395 to lead the Reivers (38-1), who will play Tyler later Thursday in the quarterfinals. Alekseeva had 13 kills and hit .357.

"That's a good team we played," Hutchinson coach Patrick Hall said. "They had a good attack out of the middle. If we could have stopped that more, it could have been a different result.

"Nina had a stellar game and so did Katie with her decision making. The different was, to compete at this level, you need to get defensive stops and we weren't able to get enough."

Hutchinson trailed 4-0 early, but went on a 6-1 run to take its first lead after a Jorn ace serve and Reiver attack error. Iowa Western countered with a 9-2 run to take control of the set. A third-consecutive Dragon hitting error gave IWCC an 18-10 lead. From that point, Iowa Western sided out on 5 of 6 chances and never let Hutch back into the set. The Reivers hit .417 to Hutch's .176 in the opening set.

Pevic had a strong second set with five kills and the Blue Dragons hit .316, but the Reivers hit .318. Still the Dragons had their chances. The Dragons trailed 15-10, but pulled back within two at 16-14 after a Pevic kill. Still down two, Hutch reeled off five in a row and to a 20-18 lead after a Claira Creach ace and IWCC attack error. Down 22-21, Tatyana Ndekwe and Hiebert teamed up for a block to knot the match IWCC scored the next two points to reach set point. Jorn fought off one with a dump to the short left side. But Ali Verzani ended the set with a kill.

After being held to four kills through two sets, Hiebert started to find the mark for the Blue Dragons in the third set. Her kill gave Hutch a 13-12 lead. She had four kills in the set. Down 19-17, the Dragons tied the set on a Leonie Wienkaemper kill and a Ndekwe/Jones double block. IWCC scored the second two points, but Hutch countered with an Ndekwe kill. Iowa Western closed the match on a 4-1 run.