Odessa College already had coughed up an eight-point lead and was on the verge of heading to a decisive fifth set against New Mexico Military Institute.
Fortunately for the Lady Wranglers, Jackie Bautista wasn’t going to let that happen.
The freshman middle blocker from El Paso took charge when Odessa College needed her most Wednesday night. Bautista had a hand in the final five points won by the Lady Wranglers — two solo blocks, a block assist, a kill and a service ace — to help her team prevail in a tight fourth set and win 25-14, 25-19, 20-25, 25-23 in a Western Junior College Athletic Conference volleyball match at the Odessa College Sports Center.
“I was just determined and I was focused,” said Bautista, who helped Odessa College overcome a 21-19 deficit in the fourth set. “Every ball was mine.”
The win was the Lady Wranglers’ third in a row in conference play and sixth in their last eight matches overall. Odessa College (14-9 overall, 3-2 WJCAC) also got its first-ever win against New Mexico Military Institute (11-14, 1-5), which swept three matches against the Lady Wranglers’ during their inaugural season a year ago.
Whereas Bautista took over late to help the Lady Wranglers close out the Lady Broncos, Laura Reigh dominated early to help her team race out to a lead. The sophomore from Snyder had seven of her match-high 12 kills in the first two sets, in which Odessa College never trailed, including five in the opening set.
“We were so pumped up because we had never beaten NMMI before,” Reigh said. “Being a sophomore, you want that so bad. … You have to beat them at least once in your time here.”
It looked like it might be an easy win for a while, but NMMI came roaring back in the third set. The Lady Broncos’ Mattie Tigges had four of her nine kills in the set and served during a five-point run that turned an 18-15 lead into a runaway toward the fourth set.
The Lady Wranglers started to run away that fourth set, building a 17-9 lead. But starting with a block by Agatha Gibbons — who led NMMI with 11 kills and four total blocks — the Lady Broncos won 10 of the next 11 points to put pressure back on Odessa College.
“In the third set we finally decided to block and be patient and wait,” NMMI coach Shelby Forchtner said. “We were jumping early and then basically giving them a free net. We finally slowed down and we were patient. We dug some more balls that we did not dig in the first few games, just being a little bit more aggressive, and then we got more aggressive with our serving.”
But the Lady Broncos’ .085 hitting percentage — than had only 39 kills on 130 attack attempts — hurt them in the long run. They also were done in a by a well-rounded performance by the Lady Wranglers, who blocked particularly well.
Odessa College racked up 16 blocks as a team. Aline Rosario led the way with 5.5, and Bautista added 4.5.
Bautista had 2.5 of her blocks during the last eight points of the match, which helped put the Lady Wranglers over the top.
“We did really well at the net,” Odessa College coach Alana Rowland said. “I’m not displeased by any means.”
>> Odessa College def. New Mexico Military Institute
25-14, 25-19, 20-25, 25-23
At Odessa College Sports Center
Kills — NMMI: Agatha Gibbons 11, Mattie Tigges 9, Veronika Baric 7, Hannah Hjelmstrom 4, Alex Hanus 3, Cristal Quinonez 2, Natalie Williamson 2, Lea Boras 1. Odessa College: Laura Reigh 12, Aline Rosario 9, Lauren Cotton-Berry 8, Natalija Djordjevic 7, Emily Bushard 6, Jackie Bautista 4, Kayla Koerner 2, Allison Crawford 2, Vanessa Ortega 1.
Blocks — NMMI: Agatha Gibbons 4, Mattie Tigges 2, Karra Day 1.5, Veronika Baric 1, Alex Hanus .5, Lea Boras .5, Cristal Quinonez .5, Natalie Williamson .5. Odessa College: Aline Rosario 5.5, Jackie Bautista 4.5, Laura Reigh 2.5, Natalija Djordjevic 1.5, Emily Bushard 1, Kayla Koerner .5, Lauren Cotton-Berry .5.
Assists — NMMI: Karra Day 33, Cara Salazar 4. Odessa College: Gabrielle Marquez 25, Carli Jo Brill 19, Emily Bushard 2, Vanessa Ortega 1, .
Digs — NMMI: Cara Salazar 12, Mandi Stewart 8, Naomi Whitehair 8, Alex Hanus 3, Cristal Quinonez 2, Hannah Hjelmstrom 2, Veronika Baric 1, Agatha Gibbons 1. Odessa College: Vanessa Ortega 13, Allison Crawford 13, Carli Jo Brill 9, Gabrielle Marquez 7, Carisia Gutierrez 7, Jackie Bautista 5, Natalija Djordjevic 3, Aline Rosario 3, Laura Reigh 1, Kayla Koerner 1, Lauren Cotton-Berry 1.
Aces — NMMI: Cara Salazar 1, Alex Hanus 1, Natalie Williamson 1, Mattie Tigges 1. Odessa College: Jackie Bautista 1, Gabrielle Marquez 1, Carisia Gutierrez 1.
Service points — NMMI: Naomi Whitehair 9, Mattie Tigges 7, Cara Salazar 5, Karra Day 5, Veronika Baric 3, Cristal Quinonez 2, Alex Hanus 1, Hannah Hjelmstrom 1, Natalie Williamson 1. Odessa College: Gabrielle Marquez 13, Allison Crawford 11, Carli Jo Brill 9, Carisia Gutierrez 6, Jackie Bautista 5, Vanessa Ortega 3.
NMMI 11-14 overall, 1-5 Western Junior College Athletic Conference; Odessa College 14-9, 3-2.